Protecting Employees from Workplace Violence

Watching the news, we’re regularly shown the fallout from acts of violence that happen on streets and homes. But it’s important to remember that violence also affects the workplace. Each year, thousands of American employees report that they have been victims of crimes and violence in the workplace. According to Injury Facts, from 2021-22, workplace assaults resulted in 57,610 injuries. In 2022, 525 workplace fatalities due to assault were reported. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has begun to put greater emphasis on preventing workplace violence by guiding employers in their efforts to prevent it. OSHA’s definition of workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” This may include threats as well as verbal abuse and more serious incidents such as physical assault and homicide.  

Some organizations are more at risk for violence than others. Healthcare, addiction support and social services tend to be the most at-risk sectors for workplace violence, but other industries such as construction and utility services also show up high on the incident list.

The Four Types of Workplace Violence

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) breaks workplace violence into four categories. 

Criminal intent. This is the most common type of workplace violence. It is a situation in which “the perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees and is usually committing a crime in conjunction with the violence (such as robbery, shoplifting or trespassing).”

Customer/client. Primarily seen in healthcare, “this type of violence occurs most frequently in emergency and psychiatric treatment settings, waiting rooms and geriatric settings.” This means that individuals who provide essential care and social services to the public are at high risk for workplace violence.

Worker-on-worker. This type of violence is usually the result of disagreements between employees. Sometimes referred to as lateral or horizontal violence, it can include “bullying and frequently manifests as verbal and emotional abuse that is unfair, offensive, vindictive and/or humiliating, though it can range all the way to homicide,” according to NIOSH.

Personal relationships.  Less commonly, workplace assaults are the result of personal relationships. This may include fallout from abusive home relationships, but the violence will generally put everyone at the workplace at risk.

How Employers Can Prevent Workplace Violence

It’s important that employers engage in strategic safety measures and put steps in place that will help mitigate or eliminate the threats of workplace violence. This strategy begins with a hazard assessment that is unique to the workplace, and results in violence prevention policies and protocols. Safety training is often a part of these policies, helping workers to understand how to prevent situations and escalations, and how and when to call for outside help. Engaging training methods can help the lessons “stick” better with the workforce. For this reason, it’s a good idea to engage an outside workplace safety consultant. 

Hire a Workplace Safety Consultant

Workplace safety consultants are experts in implementing programs that will help protect employees as well as companies from the consequences of workplace violence. These consultants can help train personnel in strategies for preventing violence and help build an enforcement program and a tracking program for any incidents that do occur during working hours. 

In Southern California, Unishield has been providing businesses with the highest quality workplace safety training and compliance solutions for employers. In addition, Unishield offers first aid kits and medical supplies, first aid restocking services, industrial safety equipment, and portable emergency medical equipment such as the lifesaving AED (automatic external defibrillator). Call 800-480-5855 or visit our website for more information. 


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