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Workplace violence: Know the warning signs


Is your workplace at risk of experiencing a violent incident? Probably not, you may believe. But consider the statistics: In 2013, 404 homicides occurred on the job, according to the 2016 edition of the National Safety Council chartbook “Injury Facts.” And, according to OSHA, roughly 2 million workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. The agency notes that many additional cases likely go unreported. How can your workplace prepare?

What constitutes workplace violence?

Workplace violence isn’t physical assault alone, notes the Canadian Center for Occupational Safety and Health. The agency states that violence can include “rumors, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft … psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder.” Although it can be difficult to know if a worker is going to become violent, warning signs exist.


Not every violent person will display the following behaviors, yet it’s important not to overlook them. Also, be sure to take these behaviors in context, CCOHS states. Behaviors to watch out for, according to the agency, include:

  • Crying or having temper tantrums
  • Being late or absent excessively
  • Showing disrespect for authority figures
  • Refusing to acknowledge job performance problems
  • Swearing at work or using emotionally charged language
  • Being socially isolated
  • Handling criticism poorly, blaming others for mistakes, and insisting he or she is correct all the time
  • Holding grudges – especially against a supervisor

Sometimes, the warning signs are more alarming. A worker may show an unhealthy interest in real-life workplace violence incidents, have an obsession with weapons or display violence toward inanimate objects. For a more thorough list of warning signs, visit If you’re concerned about a co-worker, take action, CCOHS urges. Report your concerns to your supervisor or human resources department.

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