Violence in the workplace

Violence in the workplace is a hazard that can come in many forms. While the most obvious is physical attacks , workplace violence can also include threats , harassment , or intimidation . According to the National Safety Council (NSC) , the fourth leading cause of workplace deaths is assault. When implementing hazard mitigation for your company it is important to remember that workplace etiquette is necessary to maintain a healthy work environment, but it’s not always effective. By taking the time to build Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) worksheets for potential altercations in the workplace, having de-escalation and emergency protocols can make a significant difference in the outcomes of these situations.

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Four Categories of Workplace Violence

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes four specific categories of workplace violence:

Type 1: Criminal Intent

In this instance, the perpetrator does not have a direct relationship with the workplace or its employees. A stranger can arrive at the workplace with intention to commit an act of crime which can turn violent or possibly deadly if escalated to such a degree.

Type 2: Customer/Client

Also known as “client-on-worker” violence. The client can be in reference to friends, family, acquaintances, or anyone whom business is being done with.

Type 3: Worker-on-Worker

This is violence between coworkers and is also referred to as lateral violence. Violence between coworkers can occur with employees at the same hierarchal level in the company or between a supervisor and an employee who is lower in rank.

Type 4: Personal Relationship

When romantic relationships evolve between coworkers, this can present problems in the workplace should there be discord within that relationship. Type 4 workplace violence however is not limited to romantic relationships but can also occur between traditional friends as well.

Warning Signs

There are varying signs that can occur to indicate the possibility of workplace violence among all four categories of interactions listed above. If you notice a change in behavior or physical signs of distress that are out of the ordinary, it is important to take action. If you don’t feel safe, notify a supervisor or human resources representative right away to assist with the necessary intervention.

Physical Signs of Distress:

Behavioral Signs of Distress:

                     Extreme fatigue

                     Lack of personal hygiene


                     Crying or sensitivity

                     Shallow/rapid breathing


                     Violating personal space

                     Foul language


                     Mood swings

                     Clenched jaw and/or fists;


                     Disrespecting authority


                     Placing blame on others

                     Noticeable drug/alcohol use



                     Lateness or excessive absences


                     Increased number of errors in

                     work tasks

                     The shakes

                     Social isolation

                     Avoiding eye contact

                     Derogatory gossip

                     Repetitive movements


                     Violent gestures

                     Not following company


Mitigation Tactics

As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) , “a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and federal workplaces”. As a business, it’s important to take the necessary steps to survey your workers, survey the workplace, and create a form document outlining how to best handle all potential violent situations. These tactics can be easily incorporated into a Job Safety Analysis or Job Hazard Analysis worksheet that can depict the specific situation, how it’s being mitigated, and provide photos for reference.

To promote safety at the workplace in the event of a violent event, you want to make sure that your office space itself is not cluttered and allows for an easy escape route. It’s also important to educate your workers on how to properly hide and cover themselves, if there is a deadly weapon involved, and inform the proper authorities for additional aid. Within the office setting, you need to normalize talking with your workers on a regular basis about these issues by holding monthly safety meetings and scheduling one-on-one talks with workers who are visibly not themselves.

Creating these kinds of guidelines can be challenging at times, which is why JSABuilder is such a great tool. By going to , you can go through the simple step-by-step process of putting together a JSA form or JHA form to communicate your safety at the workplace practices to your workers. Start with a risk free 30-day trial to see if JSABuilder is the right program for you! Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @JSABuilder, where we post and Tweet about Health and Safety, provide Safety tips, and updates on current Health and Safety topics.

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