Workplace Violence

There are five categories of workplace violence, each having its own unique set of motivating factors. They are:

  • robbery and other commercial crimes;
  • domestic and misdirected affection cases;
  • employer-directed violence;
  • situations involving law enforcement or security officers; and
  • terrorism or hate crimes

According to the Department of Justice, one in six violent crimes occurs in the workplace. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, murder is the leading cause of death for women on the job - more than from any other source of occupational injury.

The best deterrent to workplace violence is to conduct adequate screening, and not hire employees with a history of violent behavior. Employers should establish a zero tolerance policy for threatening or engaging in violent behavior, providing for employee disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Supervisors and employees should be trained to look for warning signs identifying emotionally upset workers. An employee assistance program should be provided for counseling and referral.

A crisis management or threat assessment team should be developed to evaluate incidents and provide a mechanism for employees to report threatening situations. Access control should be exercised to limit the traffic flow and the number of non-employees in the workplace. A violence reaction plan should be developed that includes emergency aid and post-incident response measures.

One warning sign is an overreaction by an employee or customer to changes in existing policies or adoption of a new one.