Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at work. It can range from threats, bullying, and verbal abuse to physical and sexual assaults and even homicide. This type of violence can affect and involve not only workers, but also clients, patients and visitors.
Knowing which risk factors are associated with workplace violence can help employers assess possible vulnerabilities and take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk and increase safety for all employees. This information can also help you determine if you may be at a higher risk for workplace violence so you can develop an appropriate safety plan with your employer if there isn’t one in place.
- Working with volatile and mentally unstable people
- Exchanging money with the public
- Lack of emergency communication
- Working alone or in small groups
- Poor lighting in corridors, parking lots, offices, stairs, etc.
- The belief that violence is tolerated in the workplace and reporting incidents will have no effect.
- Working in isolated areas.
- Presence of firearms.
- Working with people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Working in deliveries.
- High worker turnover.
- Working where alcohol is served.
- In healthcare: transporting or moving patients.
- Working late at night.
- Inadequate security.
- Working in high-crime areas.
- Long waits for service.
- Lack of staff training on violence prevention skills and inadequate safety policies.
- Poor environmental design that may block vision or escape routes.
Preventing Workplace Violence
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that in most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. Employers should assess their worksites and identify the methods for reducing the likelihood of violent incidents.
To prevent workplace violence, OSHA recommends:
- Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence that includes all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors and anyone who interacts with company personnel.
- Develop and implement a well written workplace prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training.
- Ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
 Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2015). Workplace violence in healthcare. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3826.pdf