Workplace violence is the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty. The impact of workplace violence can range from psychological issues to physical injury, or even death. Violence can occur in any workplace and among any type of worker, but the risk for fatal violence is greater for workers in sales, protective services, and transportation, while the risk for nonfatal violence resulting in days away from work is greatest for healthcare and social assistance workers.

Types of Workplace Violence

  • Type 1: Criminal Intent – The perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees and is usually committing a crime in conjunction with the violence (robbery, shoplifting, trespassing).
  • Type 2: Customer/Client – A customer/client relationship includes patients, their family members, and visitors. Research shows that this type of violence occurs most frequently in emergency and psychiatric treatment settings, waiting rooms, and geriatric settings, but is by no means limited to these.
  • Type 3: Worker-on-Worker – Violence between coworkers is commonly referred to as lateral or horizontal violence. It includes bullying, and frequently manifests as verbal and emotional abuse that is unfair, offensive, vindictive, and/or humiliating though it can range all the way to homicide. Worker-on-worker violence is often directed at persons viewed as being “lower on the food chain”. 
  • Type 4: Personal Relationship – The perpetrator has a relationship to the employee outside of work that spills over to the work environment.

Planning, Training & Prevention is the Best Policy

The first priority in developing a workplace violence prevention policy is to establish a system for documenting violent incidents in the workplace. Such data are essential for assessing the nature and magnitude of workplace violence in a given workplace and quantifying risk. These data can be used to assess the need for action to reduce or mitigate the risks for workplace violence and implement a reasonable intervention strategy. An existing intervention strategy may be identified within an industry or in similar industries, or new and unique strategies may be needed to address the risks in a given workplace or setting.

A comprehensive workplace violence prevention policy and training program should also include procedures and responsibilities to be taken in the event of a violent incident in the workplace.  Central to policy/training efforts should involve an emergency action plan (EAP).  Go to Emergency Preparedness and Response: Getting Started | Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( for recommendations in order to develop a plan.

Active Shooter in the Workplace

To be proactive and implement a safety training program that helps prepare your employees for an active shooter incident, it’s best to start by understanding OSHA’s general guidelines for a workplace violence incident. These guidelines can be used for training your employees for any type of workplace violence event.

  1. Employers must have a plan that focuses on the risks most likely to affect your workplace.
    • For example, if you own a retail store that’s open early in the morning or late at night, incidents are more likely to occur in those high-risk times of the day, so make sure your training includes how to prevent an incident by using safety procedures.
  2. Management commitment and worker involvement.
    • It’s not enough to establish a plan. You need to get both management and employees in on the plan, offering feedback, and participating in a dialogue, so everyone understands what to do if a workplace violence incident occurs.
  3. Conduct a worksite analysis that assesses your facility’s strengths and weaknesses, both physical and procedural.
    • It may be prudent to have local law enforcement come to assess your physical building, as well as your safety procedure.  An officer will be able to tell you weak points in your building and offer suggestions that fit your safety preparedness plan accordingly.
  4. Recognize the early signs of workplace violence.
  5. Safety and health training for your workers to follow during acts of workplace violence.
    • Periodic drills for your workers to practice the actions they should take during a workplace violence emergency, like the presence of an active shooter.
  6. Recordkeeping and program evaluations.
    • Regular drills will be able to outline the successes and opportunities for improvement within your plan.  Drills and evaluations together can help you assess and re-plan your procedure for optimal efficiency and success.

Spencer-SHE can assist you in recognizing hazards and developing policies and practices to prevent and address workplace violence.  Our company has been providing Safety, Health and Environmental Compliance Guidance since 1980, offering clients cost-effective, turn-key solutions.  Contact us  here to help you to develop and maintain a safe and healthy workforce.


OSHA Training Expectations for an Active Shooter Incident – eSafety

Emergency Preparedness and Response: Getting Started | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (