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Workplace Violence: Work Related Homicides

Work violence risks exist in virtually every workplace for a variety of reasons. They occur as employee to employee threats, physical attacks, verbal assaults, threats of physical abuse and homicide. In the U.S., two million employees each year experience some form of work violence.

Risks of Work Violence

In terms of actual work violence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) document and monitor incidents of violent acts committed on site or off site by employees or employers.

In some instances, violent acts at work are committed due to disgruntled employees who have been relieved of their jobs or have a confrontational attitude with authority figures in the workplace. 

The FBI and DOJ recognize workplace violence as a "specific category of violent crime that requires direct response from employers, law enforcement and the community." 

In 2009, the DOJ reported that for every 1,000 employees, four employees experienced work place violence. The risks of work place violence fall into several categories. These include:


  • Violence directed at employees by patients, students, inmates, customers or other associates within an organization
  • Violence by a former employee directed at managers, fellow employees or others in positions of authority
  • Violence committed while robbery or theft is in progress by a criminal
  • Violence committed by non-employees who have a relationship with an employee, such as spouse or partner where abuse is committed at the workplace.


Work Related Homicides

In a study of work related homicides by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, work place violence incidences included aggravated assault, robbery and rape. However, work related homicides from 2006 to 2010 accounted for 551 workers killed in the work place. 

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more recently reported 77 multiple fatalities that occurred in the workplace. Also indicated in the Census is that workplace homicides are a result of shootings, rather than other forms of weaponry. 

Addressing the Risks of Workplace Violence

Across the board, OSHA, the FBI, DOJ, DOL and BLS concur that in order to reduce risks of workplace violence, it is necessary to have a zero tolerance company policy. This is primary to also securing the workplace site, providing training programs for employees that support zero tolerance of workplace violence and focusing attention on managers and supervisor vigilance of changes in employee attitude and/or inter-employee conflicts that have potential to escalate violently. 

Managing the Aftermath of Workplace Violence

Should workplace violence occur, business owners, managers and supervisors should have a comprehensive plan of action. This should include:

  • Reporting violent incidences to local law enforcement
  • Implementing a plan for medical treatment should it become necessary
  • Provide victims of workplace violence with information regarding their legal rights
  • Meet with staff and employees to reinforce company policy on zero tolerance
  • Allow employees to discuss ways in which future workplace violence can be avoided
  • Document all incidences of workplace violence should legal claims be filed

To reduce stress of employees and staff who are not victims of workplace violence, provide sufficient debriefing to relieve stress and coordinate a plan for access to post traumatic counseling. 

The Impact of Work Related Homicides on Business Owners

With regard to workplace homicides, actions taken by employers may depend on where homicide(s) have taken place. The issue of work related homicides and how to avoid this violence begins with a well-articulated company policy manual provided to each employee on their first day of employment. 

Work related homicides can have far reaching effects for employers and their ability to continue business operations. The extremity of work related homicides can become a deterrent to future employees if there a multiple homicides or more than one homicidal incident. However, with proper preparation and planning and training programs for staff and employees, a business can survive the impact of work related homicide. 

Investment in a professional consultant with experience in creating, implementing and organizing a training program and company policies reduces workplace violence and work related homicide risks and helps increase awareness and security for employers and employees.

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