A report by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) says that 13% of federal workers witness workplace violence.

Although that figure means the vast majority of federal workers have a right to feel secure, these “survey results, when extrapolated to the federal workforce as a whole, mean that more than 240,000 federal employees observed an incident of workplace violence,” the report says.

“Prevention and mitigation of workplace violence is challenging,” said Susan Tsui Grundmann, MSPB’s chairman, in a statement issued with the report. “Limiting physical access to federal workplaces is not enough, because the vast majority of perpetrators of federal workplace violence are individuals who, for the most part, have a legitimate reason to be in the workplace.”

Law enforcement officers expect violence to come with their jobs and the MSPB report found, as might be expected, that officers have “higher than average rates of workplace violence.” 

The MSPB report was based on a 2010 survey that asked about violence during the preceding two years. The most common type of violence observed “was, by far, violence perpetrated by current or former employees,” the survey found. “Survey respondents observed this type of workplace violence more often than violence perpetrated by all other individuals combined.”

Physical injury and property damage were rare. Fifteen percent resulted in physical injury and 10 percent in property loss or damage. The survey’s definition of violence included physical assaults, threats of assault, harassment, intimidation and bullying.

Among other things, MSPB recommended that agencies develop formal workplace violence prevention programs, collect data on workplace violence and screen applicants for a history of violent behavior.

The Office of Personnel Management had a low percentage of witnesses to violence. Four percent of its employees said they had observed violent incidents. That’s the lowest percentage among the 24 large agencies surveyed. The U.S. Postal Service was not included. The VA, at 23 percent, led all agencies surveyed by a large margin.