Course 601 - Essentials of Occupational Safety and Health

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Preventing Workplace Violence

Woman with injured face
It's important to note that workplace violence can often occur due to employees circumstances outside of work.

Across the nation, violence in the workplace is emerging as a significant occupational hazard. All too frequently, employees become victims of violent acts that result in substantial physical or emotional harm. For injured or threatened employees, workplace violence can lead to medical treatment, missed work, lost wages, and decreased productivity.

For many occupations, workplace violence represents a serious occupational risk. Violence at work can take many forms: harassment, intimidation, threats, theft, stalking, assault, arson, sabotage, bombing, hostage-taking, kidnapping, extortion, suicide, and homicide. For each murder, there are countless other incidents of workplace violence in which victims are threatened or injured.

Here are some recent statistics for workplace violence:

  • 506 workplace homicides occurred in the United States in 2010.
  • 79 percent of 2010 workplace homicides in the United States were shootings.
  • Assaults and attacks-including homicide- make up 18 percent of all fatal occupational injuries and are the second-leading cause of such injuries.
  • Workplace homicides declined 7 percent in 2010 to the lowest-ever recorded total by fatality census. However, workplace homicides involving women increased 13 percent in 2010.

Source: Workplace Violence. (2012) The National Center for Victims of Crime. Retrieved from

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

If there is a recognized violence hazard in the workplace and employers do not take feasible steps to prevent or abate it, employers can be cited.

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act's General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthful working environment for all workers covered by the OSH Act of 1970. This act was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

  • If there is a recognized violence hazard in the workplace and employers do not take feasible steps to prevent or abate it, employers can be cited.
  • Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe their employer is not following OSHA standards or there are serious hazards.
Trainer speaking to a class
Training on workplace violence ensures awareness of potential hazards and protection measures.

Training Violence Prevention

Training is a critical component of any prevention strategy. Training is necessary for employees, supervisors, and the staff members of each department who may be involved in responding to an incident of workplace violence. Training and instruction on workplace violence ensures that all staff is aware of potential hazards and how to protect themselves and their co-workers through established prevention and control measures.

While most everyone agrees there are clear warning signs before most acts of workplace violence, what action should be taken varies.

Nevertheless, making information available to employees about the potential for violence in the workplace, how to recognize the early warning signs of a troubled or potentially violent person, and how to respond to such a person, could save a life.

Not all individuals who are distraught over services (or lack thereof) or their termination of employment will become violent. The primary type of training that may be beneficial to all employees is that which concentrates on conflict resolution.

Advantages of Written Policies

Once a workplace violence program is ready to be implemented, companies must decide whether to issue a written policy statement.

Company programs can also be implemented without a written policy statement. In these companies, employees are often given information about the program (especially whom to call) in training sessions, on posters, in newsletter articles, or by other similar methods. Companies have an inherent right to take action against employees who engage in disruptive or threatening behavior whether or not they have issued a written policy statement.

A workplace violence policy statement should convey that:

  • All employees are responsible for maintaining a safe and healthful work environment;
  • The policy covers not only acts of physical violence, but harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior;
  • The policy covers incidents involving all interactions between:
    • supervisor to employee
    • employee to employee
    • employee to supervisor
    • employee to non-employee
    • non-employee to employee;
  • The company will respond appropriately to all reported incidents;
  • The company will act to stop inappropriate behavior; and
  • Supervisors and all of the departments involved in responding to incidents will be supported by company management in their efforts to deal with violent and potentially violent situations.

Employee training

Red phone with the word HELP above it
All employees should have emergency phone numbers.

Workplace violence prevention training for employees should include an explanation of the company’s workplace violence policies, ways to prevent or diffuse volatile situations or aggressive behavior, how to deal with hostile persons, and personal security measures within the company.

OSHA believes that the performance oriented approach of the guidelines provides employers with flexibility in their efforts to maintain safe and healthful working conditions. OSHA has additional information to help you with this and many other safety and health issues. Training should make sure all employees:

  • know how to report incidents of violent, intimidating, threatening and other disruptive behavior, and
  • be provided with phone numbers for quick reference during a crisis or an emergency.



Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. In 2010, what percentage of workplace homicides in the United States were shootings?

2. If there is a recognized violence hazard in the workplace and employers do not take feasible steps to prevent or abate it, _____.

3. Companies have an inherent right to take action against employees who engage in disruptive or threatening behavior _____.

4. The violence prevention policy covers all of the following, EXCEPT _____.

5. Which of the following should always be a part of violence prevention training?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.