Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Legal News / How employers can prepare for possible workplace violence

How employers can prepare for possible workplace violence

Unfortunately, workplace violence is a reality that many employers should be prepared to address. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 392 U.S. workers were workplace homicide victims in 2020, and 20,050 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence. There were 37,060 nonfatal injuries in the workplace resulting from an intentional injury by another person.

Of the homicides, 81 percent were men. Of the trauma, 73 percent were women. The five occupational groups that experienced the most workplace homicides in 2020 were: sales, transportation and material moving, management, construction and extraction, and production. As for the trauma victims, 76 percent worked in health care and social assistance.

There are countless ways employers can better prepare to handle workplace violence. Here are a few things that employers can do now.

Respond to threats

Immediately remove the threatening employee from the workplace. Do not quibble on this; it is not acceptable for an employer to say that it is aware an employee is making threats of violence against others, but that it allowed the employee to continue to be in the workplace. Employees should NOT be allowed to return to the workplace until the company determines it is safe for them to do so. This may require the employee to complete a fitness-for-duty evaluation by an appropriate health care provider.

Employers also need to use their best judgment in determining when to call law enforcement. This should be an immediate step if there is an active threat: call law enforcement before calling counsel. Each situation requires an individual response from the employer that ensures the safety of the workplace. Employers that have resolved a particular threat of violence should also take the opportunity to review protocols and training to determine what can be improved for the future.

Peruse OSHA resources

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many resources on workplace violence, including prevention programs and training, that employers should utilize. Visit to access documents such as guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health care and social service workers and preventing homicide in the workplace.

Consider safety consultants

Employers should consider hiring safety consultants. They can visit one’s workplace and evaluate physical spaces to determine which protocols and measures can be implemented to improve employee safety in response to threats of violence. Additionally, if there is a threat, safety consultants can be hired to provide security and assess various aspects of the threat. Safety consultants can also make recommendations on surveillance, patrols, and other forms of security that an employer can implement that it may not have previously considered.

Consider risk assessments

Another excellent tool that employers can utilize in response to threats of workplace violence is a psychological risk assessment. Forensic psychologists can perform risk assessments by working with employers to evaluate the threats and other information available to the employer to determine the level of risk presented. Risk assessments can be extremely helpful to determine how serious a threat may be and the nature of the potential aggressor, if unknown. Forensic psychologists can also perform evaluations to determine whether an employee may safely return to work.

Leverage unions

Employers that work with employees who are represented by a union should utilize those relationships. Unions should be involved immediately if they represent an employee who is making threats of violence. If the union is dispatching that employee from a hiring hall, the hall should also be informed. Unions can also provide training to members on workplace safety and violence. Strategically, employers may also want to invite a union to the workplace so that training is jointly presented to employees. There are a variety of ways that employers can leverage unions to help support efforts to combat workplace violence.

Nicole Elgin is a partner at Barran Liebman LLP. She represents employers in all types of employment and labor matters.