Workplace Violence

Assaults Fourth Leading Cause of Workplace Deaths

Is Your Workplace Ready?


Every year, millions of American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. In 2017, assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities, according to Injury Facts®.

Certain industries, including healthcare, service providers and education, are more prone to violence than others. Taxi drivers, for example, are more than 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to OSHA.

But make no mistake: Workplace violence can happen anywhere.

The Numbers are Alarming

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories: Criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker and personal relationship, which overwhelmingly targets women.

No matter who initiaties the confrontation, the deadliest situations involve an active shooter. U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines active shooter as someone "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area."

A lot can happen in the chaotic minutes before police arrive; DHS advises staying calm and exercising one of three options: Run, hide or fight.

  • If there is an accessible escape route, leave your belongings and get out
  • If evacuation is not possible, find a hiding place where you won't be trapped should the shooter find you, lock and blockade the door, and silence your phone
  • As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to incapacitate the shooter by throwing items, improvising weapons and yelling

Every Organization Needs to Address Workplace Violence

Managers and safety professionals at every workplace should develop a policy on violence that includes:

  • Employee training and creating an emergency action plan
  • Conducting mock training exercises with local law enforcement
  • Adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence

Know the Warning Signs

Some people commit violence because of revenge, robbery or ideology – with or without a component of mental illness. While there is no way to predict an attack, you can be aware of behaviors in coworkers that might signal future violence:

  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Unexplained absenteeism, change in behavior or decline in job performance
  • Depression, withdrawal or suicidal comments
  • Resistance to changes at work or persistent complaining about unfair treatment
  • Violation of company policies
  • Emotional responses to criticism, mood swings
  • Paranoia

Most every "place" is somebody's workplace. So whether you are a patron or an employee, it's important to be alert.