Prevention Ideas for Workplace Violence

Homicide is the third leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for all workers.

  • 85 percent are the result of 'stranger violence.' (The perpetrator is usually committing a crime—like robbery—and doesn't know the victims.)
  • 7 percent are co-workers/former employees.
  • 3 percent are by customer/client.
  • The remaining 5 percent is considered personal relationship violence between the perpetrator and the victim.

Source: Injury Prevention Research Center based on U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Annually, about 2 million workers are victims of non-fatal injuries caused by workplace violence. Very little scientific research exists regarding approaches to prevention. While OSHA has some voluntary guidelines, no federal laws specifically address preventing workplace violence.

Here are a few ideas may help make a difference:

Physical environment


  • Be aware of your surroundings. If something seems wrong—too much or too little noise or activity, change in the area's lighting or odors, etc.—pay attention.
  • Doors to card access areas are not to be propped open.
  • Let strangers use their own swipe cards—if they don't have one, allowing them in on yours is a security breach.

 Reception areas

  • All guests/visitors are greeted and escorted elsewhere by whomever they are here to see.
  • Arrange the reception area so that it's not obvious someone is working alone.
  • Have a reception area that is separate from or 'fronts' the office area.

Cubicle or office areas

  • If you see someone unfamiliar wandering about, ask if you can help.
  • Know where the exits are located. Use alternate routes to and from your cubicle or office so you are familiar with them in case of an emergency.

Organizational or administrative

CIVIL, a coordinated NIH resource, provides information for supervisors on preventing workplace violence and recognizing factors that contribute to it.

Communication and its impact on workplace conflict

Interpersonal or behavioral

  • Communicate, listen, play fair.
  • Follow the Golden Rule—treat others the way you would like to be treated.
  • Recognize the warning signs that may lead to severe workplace violence: 
    • Yelling or screaming at co-workers.
    • Blaming others.
    • Fixating on an event, idea, or person.
    • Having emotional, explosive outbursts.
    • Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
    • Preoccupied with own death arrangements.
    • Slipping in level of personal hygiene or appearance.