Violence in the Workplace: Recognizing and Responding


Recognizing and responding to violence in the workplace is a crucial step in ensuring that your company is a safe place for employees to carry out their duties, something that is required of all employers. According to a recent study conducted by OSHA, nearly two million US employees report being the target of an act of violence per year. This number is staggering and keep in mind that these are only the acts that have been reported. We are all too familiar with the intimidation and oppression that can keep victims silent.


Recognizing workplace violence


The most important goal in responding to workplace violence is to stop it before it starts. This takes vigilance on the part of the employer: they must anticipate trouble areas and TRAIN managers to identify and respond to all warning signs of aggression. Workplace violence is identified as an act or threat of physical, verbal, or mental abuse. It can be perpetuated by a workplace issue or personal grievance (meaning an issue outside of work triggering the violent act), employers are responsible for correctly responding to both.

Before a plan of action can be made, employers must understand what they are responsible for:

  1. Premises liability: employers must ensure their employee’s safety at work
  2. Respondent superior: employer’s must ensure that their own actions cannot directly or indirectly contribute to a violent act
  3. Negligence: employers must perform due diligence in ensuring that an employee does not present a threat to other staff (eg conducting a background check can help in this)

Warning signs that an employee may become violent include the intimidation and/or bullying of others, and the excessive disrespect of other people and/or property. If these occur, it’s important that a supervisor step in to address the issue and hopefully deter violence from occurring. If a violent act happens, then it’s time to escalate the response.



A plan of action


Once an employer knows how to recognize trouble areas and examples of violence, it’s time to draft a plan on how to deal with incidents. Your HR department will establish a step-by-step manual to guide managers in successfully resolving the issue while staying in compliance with the law. This plan will ensure that proper documentation of the incident is done, including interviews of all parties involved and will act as a reference of the incident for any legal procedures that may follow.

So remember, it’s crucial to document document document! Documentation is the most important piece to the puzzle in resolving violent issues.


Workplace violence is an unfortunate potential reality in running a business but by thoroughly preparing to deal with threats and incidents, the end result can ensure that your company is a safe place for employees. If you’re not quite sure where to start in making a plan, we invite you to reach out to us and learn how Eos HR can help. We’re a team of HR professionals helping small businesses navigate the multitude of recent changes to labor laws. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.


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