Each and every working person deserves to have a job where they feel safe.  There was a time that life was easier:  you could go to work and do your eight hours, and return home safely.  But times have changed; we see more senseless violence in workplaces, schools and even movie theaters.  Companies now must train their employees to recognize threatening situations and know what to do should something happen. 

There are all types of workplace violence:

  • Violence by strangers;
  • Violence by customers;
  • Violence among co-workers;
  • Violence as the result of personal relationships. 

Assaults and threats of violence number almost two million per year in the United States.  After workplace accidents, homicide is the second leading cause of death in the workplace.  The workplace can be any permanent or temporary location where employees perform any job-related duty.  A physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse in the workplace is considered violence. 

Employees should be trained to recognize signs of workplace hostility and report them immediately to their supervisor.  Threats, obscene phone calls or emails, harassment of any type, being pushed or shoved, or any aggressive physical acts are considered violent behavior.  Offensive gestures, shouting, punching walls, slamming doors, or discourteous conduct toward customers or co-workers are not to be tolerated.  Those who tell false malicious statements against co-workers or others to damage their reputations or undermine authority should also be turned in.  

If a worker shows an abnormal fascination with guns or weapons, or brings them to work, there is trouble lurking.  Police should be notified immediately.  Companies should establish a good relationship with local law enforcement. 

Our children have to attend school, and many school districts have changed their policies to screen any visitors that come into the building, and make the entrances more visible to the office staff when someone approaches the school.  Teachers have given their lives to save children; this should never happen to the most innocent of victims – our children and teachers. 

Hospital workers also come to mind when it comes to workplace safety.  One never knows when a patient or family member or person trying to steal drugs will enter a hospital.  Most hospitals have taken security measures to prevent violence in their facility; however, terrible things still could happen. 

As mentioned earlier, any permanent or temporary place where people are doing their job should be a safe haven for them.  Where appropriate, alarm systems, metal detectors, or closed-circuit video recording cameras, should be installed.  In large buildings, a “safe room” should be designed.  If it takes bullet-resistant glass in certain businesses, it would be worth keeping employees safe. 

Employees must be committed to safety and health in the workplace.  They should know how to manage escalated hostile and aggressive behavior without risking their own life.  Sometimes that isn’t possible, and any worker or supervisor should not give up their life.  There should be no reprisals against an employee who reports a suspicious incident or threatening situation.  Be sure that parking lots and all areas around your worksite have adequate lighting for safety of workers.  

Workplace violence has had the following economic impact:

  • 500,000 employees lose 1,175,100 work days each year;
  • $55 million annual lost wages;
  • Security increases costs billions of dollars;
  • Legal expenses;
  • Property damage;
  • Lost productivity;
  • Diminished public image. 

Businesses should assign a “Threat Assault Team” or “Patient Assault Team” to assess vulnerability to workplace violence and determine appropriate actions.  Requiring employees to report all assaults and threats to this team will be invaluable.  The  Team then should respond to their employees.  Whatever is required, workplace violence should be stopped. 

Source: OSHA;