Workplace Violence:  What Can an Employer Do to Minimize the Risk?

Richard K. Shoultz

El Paso, Dayton, San Jose, Virginia Beach. What do these cities have in common?  Unfortunately, all of them were the sites of mass shootings in 2019. While each city has unique, positive traits, unfortunately, each also has a negative event attached to their name that no city ever wishes to have.

Today, the nightly news too often reports of mass shootings at some location. While the motivations and types of shooters may be different, most shooting events affect individuals who are at their place of employment. It is a common misperception that most “workplace violence” events involve a disgruntled employee. Workplace violence events caused by an employee are a relatively small percentage of the total events.  For the time period of 2005-2009, co-worker conflict violence involving men were only 16.3% of all events while only 14.3% involved women. [1]

So what is considered “workplace violence?” It clearly is not limited to disgruntled employees.  In fact, workplace violence includes all events where an employed person sustains injury because of violence. Such events can involve domestic events brought about by a spouse/ex-spouse. Frustrated clients or customers are also a likely source of workplace violence conflicts. Similarly, workplace violence events also include student violence against teachers/administrators as well as employees injured from robberies.

In assessing workplace violence situations, there are clearly certain occupations where the risk of aggression is higher. Those occupations where the risk is higher include retail workers (especially at liquor or convenience stores), restaurant and bartender employees, health care workers, and educators.

Even though the risk of workplace violence exists in many different vocations, there are some proactive approaches that employers can and should use to minimize the risk. This article will highlight some approaches that employers may wish to consider to minimize risk of worker conflict.

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[1]   US Bureau of Justice:  Workplace Violence, 1994-2009, March 200, p.6