10 Ways to Prevent Workplace Violence

808 incidents in 2010, with 506 homicides, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration estimates a total of nearly 2 million people are affected each year. No, we’re not talking about natural disasters and emergencies.

These figures refer to one of the deadliest, yet preventable, hazards in every work establishment—workplace violence. Currently the fourth highest cause of workplace fatalities and the leading cause of female worker fatalities in the country, workplace violence is a grave problem that every employer must properly consider and address.

OSHA has released safety procedures and standards for specific occupations that are considered to be at high risk for workplace violence such as social workers and workers in late-night retail establishments. But whether or not your workplace falls under any of those that are considered to be at high risk, the following general measures will prove to be useful in preventing incidences of workplace violence:

  • Implement a strict ID policy for all employees and visitors, and use photo IDs as much as is practicable.
  • Provide training for employees on how to prevent and abate workplace violence.
  • Position curved mirrors over hallway corners and other concealed places.
  • Install metal detectors at building entry points and disallow the entry of guns, knives, and other weapons.
  • Replace dead or burned-out light bulbs and fluorescents with bright lights.
  • Install panic buttons and alarm systems in work stations that are in direct contact with the general public.
  • Position well-trained security personnel for areas storing highly valuable items.
  • Keep office windows and emergency exits locked from the inside and install appropriate alarms to detect unauthorized access or use.
  • Install and maintain a 24-hour closed-circuit recording system in all public and high-risk areas including parking areas and entry/exit points.
  • Establish a formal and written emergency procedure for workplace violence and assaults.

These preventive measures can be useful in almost any scenario or workplace. For more information on special measures for high-risk occupations, we recommend that you check OSHA’s guidelines and resources for Late-Night Retail Establishments, Taxi Drivers, and Health Care and Social Service Workers.

Prevention Is Key

The first thing you need to do is to develop a violence prevention plan

  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management publishes a Guide for Agency Planners that includes this advice preventing workplace violence
  • The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has published a handbook on preventing workplace violence
  • U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has published an extensive list of resources for preventing workplace violence including this list of “grass roots” efforts by the various states to prevent workplace violence.

Preventing Workplace Violence product available on this site