Workplace Violence: Prevention Tips for Employers

It’s a crime that shows up quite often in the news media—employees and other innocent victims being killed at the hands of robbers, coworkers, and customers during an ugly act of criminal violence.  According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace violence is the leading cause of death among employees after transportation- and fall-related incidents. 


Today’s current statistics continue to illustrate this ugly picture:


More than 2 employees are killed each day as a result of workplace violence.


17% of workplace murders are committed by coworkers and customers/clients.


75% of workplace murders are committed by thieves and theft-related crimes.


In addition to these heinous murders, thousands of employees are injured every year as a result of violent acts in the workplace.  With robbers, employees and clients committing these violent crimes, every employee is at risk—no matter where they work.  For this reason, employers should put in place the necessary safety measures to help protect the lives of their employees, as well as their own.


Reducing Employer Liability


Workplace violence has added to employers’ concerns over liability.  In an effort to address this concern, the following are some tips on how company’s can lessen their liability, as well as create a safer work environment for everyone:

Respond immediately to all reports of violence, threats, and/or weapons on company premises.


Investigate all reports of harassment and other physical or verbal misconduct immediately.


When dealing with unusual events, seek advice from a higher authority within the company or legal counsel.


Conduct all investigations and counseling sessions discreetly and suppress any defamatory gossip among employees.


Put in place a written policy that thoroughly addresses workplace violence.  Take the necessary action to prevent and correct all forms of misconduct and harassment.


Follow up with each and every victim of harassment or misconduct.  Inform them of the corrective action taken and encourage them to report any future misbehavior or retaliation.


If an employee shows up at work impaired by alcohol or drugs, have security personnel or law enforcement remove the employee.  Do not allow another employee to remove the person!  Do not allow the impaired employee to drive!


Thoroughly screen all job applicants.  Be sure to verify all references and conduct a background check.


Train management and employees to recognize the warning signs of potential workplace violence.


When faced with a threat, hire extra security and provide employees with sufficient warning and instructions.

Make certain that all employees/victims know that reporting workplace violence, harassment, and/or threats will not affect their job status.


Workplace Violence Policy


Experts believe that one of the first steps in preventing employee violence is to provide disgruntled employees with an outlet to vent their frustrations, as well as a way to communicate their grievances to upper management.  Experts argue that by providing such an outlet, employees can better deal with the stressors of their jobs.  As a result, the negative emotions that lead to violent rages are defused and problems are more properly addressed.


Effective violence policies are also crucial in protecting employees and reducing the risk of employee violence.  The following are some tips that employers should consider when devising policies against violence in the workplace:


Implement a zero-tolerance policy against workplace violence.  Your policy should also include a strict no-weapons rule.


Your policy should strictly prohibit all violent or threatening behavior, whether physical or verbal. 


All employees, customers, and other visitors on company premises or engaged in company-related business should be required to adhere to the rules of your workplace violence policy


Ensure your policy includes procedures for reporting and investigating accusations of workplace violence.  All violent behavior should be reported to management immediately.


Have well-defined procedures for responding to and dealing with incidents of workplace violence.


Ensuring that managers and supervisors are thoroughly educated and trained in areas such as diversity, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, employment practices, and the common signs and triggering factors of workplace violence is critical in reducing the risk of employer liability and workplace violence.  Knowing how to discipline and terminate problem employees with respect and fairness is extremely important.


More Helpful Tips


The following are a few more helpful tips on reducing the risk of violence in the workplace:


Set up a code word that receptionists can use to alert a coworker if a potentially dangerous individual arrives at the reception area.


Post signs throughout the office that communicate that company employes are working to maintain a safe working environment.


Conduct regular training sessions to teach managers and supervisors how to recognize the warning signs of violence and minimize potentially violent situations in the workplace. 


Conduct routine safety checks and maintenance of  features in and around the workplace, including emergency xits, alarms, security lighting, surveillance cameras, and/or metal detectors.


Being prepared is the first step to avoiding the negative consequences of violence in the workplace.  Taking time to educate yourself, as well as the managers, supervisors, and employes of your company is well worth the effort!