16 Red Flags of Violence in the Workplace

While murders in the workplace make the six o’clock news, injuries due to physical assault in the workplace are much more common. Violence in the workplace is not a new issue but continues to be an issue far greater than many employers recognize.


Workplace violence is not limited to prison guards and police officers. It can occur in almost any business.   Injuries due to disgruntled employees, mentally unstable employees and aggressive employees can cost the employer significantly in workers’ compensation cost, as well as reducing the morale of the work force.



Employers & Employees Have Responsibility


Both employers and employees need to recognize that a safe work environment is everyone’s responsibility.   Employers need to train their employees on how to recognize an unsafe situation when it relates to their co-workers. Employers should stress to their employees that workplace violence does not “go with job” and they do not have to “put up with it.” Employees need to bring to management’s attention any abnormal behavior of co-workers who threaten to harm, attempt to harm or cause harm to a co-worker, a supervisor or management.


Employers and employees need to recognize the red flags of potential workplace violence. Most violent employees behave in a way that cause their co-workers and employer to be concerned prior to a violent act. Some of the red flags employers and co-workers should notice include:


  1. Prior history of violent behavior.
  2. Making threats, either verbal or physical.
  3. Unexplained mood changes.
  4. Screaming, yelling or making a fist.
  5. Expressing homicidal or suicidal thoughts.
  6. Holding a grudge against a supervisor or co-workers.
  7. Blaming all things that go wrong on co-workers, supervisors or management.
  8. Expressing a feeling of loss of control within his/her life.
  9. A history of domestic abuse.
  10. Being obsessed with weapons or carrying a weapon (weapons should never be permitted in the workplace).
  11. Being a loner with no involvement with co-workers.
  12. Having paranoid behavior or making statements that reflect paranoid thoughts.
  13. Having an unwanted romantic interest in a co-worker.
  14. Abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs or medications while off the job.
  15. Abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs or medications while on the job (should be grounds within your safety program for immediate termination).
  16. Having extreme financial problems or extreme family problems.



All Employees Understand Red Flags


All employees should know what is considered a red flag for potential violence and should feel free to report their concerns without fear of any reprisal from their supervisor or management. Once a red flag is recognized, proper risk management requires a plan to reduce the potential risk of violence. The employer should assess and document both objective and subjective behavior of the employee who is causing the concern.   If procedures are already in place to deal with the situation, they should be followed.


If an employee feels there is a risk of violence, the employee should notify the immediate supervisor at once. The employee’s supervisor should take appropriate action when a red flag for violence is brought to their attention. If the supervisor does not take the appropriate action, then the employee should follow the chain of command until management takes protective measures to ensure employee safety.



Workplace Violence Not Limited to Employees


Workplace violence is not limited to employees. Often estranged domestic partners or estranged lovers will strike out at the partner while the partner is at work. People who deal with the general public like convenience store cashiers can be subjected to violence. Terroristic acts by disgruntled former employees or disgruntled customers can be the cause of workplace violence. In some metropolitan areas gang related activity can invade the workplace.


A part of your safety program should address the access to the work site by non-employees. Your employees should know what the protocol is for non-employees to be admitted to the workplace. Any deviation from the established procedure should be immediately brought to the attention of management.


Employers can further steps to reduce the potential of violence including the installation of alarm systems; the arrangement of furniture, cubicles or machinery to prevent employees from being trapped; the use of escorts; and, the use of cells phones to request assistance if needed.


Your safety program for your company should have a written policy on preventing workplace violence. The written policy should have zero tolerance for workplace violence and zero tolerance for the threat of violence, either verbal or physical. While all workplace violence cannot be eliminated, the employers who have a workplace safety program with a section on preventing violence will achieve a significant reduction in work place injuries due to violence and a reduction in the severity of the injuries due to workplace violence.




Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .


Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/


©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.




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