Understanding Workplace Violence – a Firestorm Whitepaper

Understanding Workplace Violence

Workplace Violence WhitepaperWorkplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.

Any definition of workplace violence must be broad enough to encompass the full range of behaviors that can cause injury, damage property, impede the normal course of work, or make workers, managers, and customers fear for their safety. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as, “violent acts, including physical assaults and threats of assault, directed toward persons at work or on duty.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) expands this definition to the following: Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. It includes but is not limited to beatings, stabbings, suicides, shootings, rapes, near suicides, psychological traumas such as threats, obscene phone calls, an intimidating presence and (including cyber-bullying) harassment of any nature such as being followed, sworn at or shouted at.

At the low end of the ASIS workplace violence spectrum above are disruptive, aggressive, hostile, or emotionally abusive behaviors that generate anxiety or create a climate of distrust, and that adversely affect productivity and morale. These behaviors of concern could – but will not necessarily – escalate into more severe behavior falling further along the workplace violence spectrum; however, independent of the question of possible escalation, these behaviors are in themselves harmful and, for that reason, warrant attention and effective intervention.

Further along the spectrum are words or other actions that are reasonably perceived to be intimidating, frightening, or threatening to employees and that generate a justifiable concern for personal safety. These behaviors include, among others, direct, conditional or veiled threats, stalking and aggressive harassment.

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