There are only three choices you have to deal with the risk of workplace violence:

  • To ignore the risk (in other words, you can throw the dice and believe that it won’t happen in your organization).

    This approach is the most frequent approach that is taken to dealing with the risk of workplace violence. This belief, better known as the ostrich approach, is the number one obstacle to managers taking a proactive preventative approach to dealing with workplace violence.

  • To transfer a portion of the risk via insurance.

    This approach is one in which the organization does what is legally required to do to address issues to minimize any legal liability.

  • To reduce a substantial amount of the risk by reducing “at risk” behaviors (individual and organizational behaviors that tend to increase risk).

This approach is the one taken by progressive organizations that actually operationalize their mission statement that people are their most important resource and genuinely focus on providing a safe workplace free of known hazards.

An effective approach for dealing with “at risk” behaviors is to classify them and then develop appropriate actions that need to be taken at each of the commensurate levels of risk. One model, which borrows from the threat levels used for Homeland Security, can be used to guide your actions.


Severe risk of workplace violence incident


High risk of workplace violence incident


Significant risk of workplace violence incident


General risk of workplace violence incident


Low risk of workplace violence incident


  • Identify what are the risks of violence that your specific organization, industry or geographic location may be exposed to and develop a plan to mitigate any potential exposure.

  • Train your supervisors and employees to recognize the ”early warning signs” and how to report or intervene to effectively address them.

  • Proactively communicate the value of the EAP to employees and train your supervisors in how to effectively influence employees to use the program.


  • Conduct a Facility Risk Assessment to ascertain vulnerabilities and take actions to address these and improve perimeter security particularly access control.

  • Establish a protocol with local law enforcement to expedite response to an incident. This includes familiarizing them with your facility and its physical layout.


  • Conduct a desktop review or rehearsal of your workplace violence emergency response plan to test how the pieces work and learn where improvements are necessary.

  • Review Factors Common to Organizations that have a higher propensity for incidents of workplace violence and identify the departments that have a lot of the factors.

  • Conduct a Threat Assessment of individuals that are identified as “at risk.”

  • Using the input of your labor attorney, law enforcement, security management and workplace violence professional; determine appropriateness of obtaining an Workplace Restraining Order. Note that this should not be an automatic decision and should be well thought out because in many cases a restraining order can exasperate or escalate the situation.


  • Involve law enforcement to take preventative actions and/or enlist private security to conduct surveillance of the “at risk” employee.

  • If specific individuals have been identified as being potential targets, relocate their work location and/or provide security protection.


  • Close the facility.

The bottom line is to really and intelligently face and act on the risks of workplace violence.