You Can Reduce the Risk of Workplace Violence | Virginia Benefits Agency

On Friday, February 15, 2019, five employees of a manufacturer in Aurora, Illinois, were killed by an employee they were about to terminate as they met in a conference room. Among the victims were the human resources director and a young HR intern at his first day on the job. This is just the latest incidence of gun violence at a workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that every year, nearly two million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Census, homicide accounted for 10 percent of all fatal workplace injuries in 2016. And an FBI study found that businesses were the setting for nearly half of 160 active-shooter incidents over a 13-year-period the agency examined.

Workplace violence takes many forms, including homicide, assault, stalking, threatening words, threatening conduct, and harassment. It results in a decline in employee morale, management inefficiencies, and decreased productivity. Employers also bear the burden of workplace violence because its consequences include significant costs in lost wages, employee absences, and increased benefit payments.

Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and must prevent workplace violence to protect their employees and avoid liability.

How a Policy Can Help

A well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention policy — combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training — can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. This policy can stand on its own or be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or operations manual.

The goals of any workplace violence prevention policy are two-fold:

  • Reduce the probability of threats or acts of violence in the workplace.
  • Ensure that any incident, complaint, or report of violence is immediately addressed and properly managed.

The primary components of a workplace violence prevention policy include clearly defined reporting and response procedures, a workplace security risk evaluation, prevention tools, mandatory training, and other necessary support services. Employers must inform employees of the requirements of applicable state and federal law, the risk factors in their workplace, and the location of the written workplace violence prevention program.

It’s important that all workers are informed of the policy and understand that management strives to keep all employees safe in the workplace and will take all concerns seriously.

by Rachel Sobel
Originally posted on