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The four most common perpetrators of workplace violence

July 20, 2017
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The good news is that according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice report, workplace violence incidents have dropped 75 percent since 1993. The bad news is that workplace violence still occurs and wreaks havoc on businesses through property damage and financial loss, emotional trauma and stress, and even injuries and death. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace violence accounts for 16 percent of workplace deaths in 2014.

To better understand the root causes of workplace violence, it’s important to know the most common perpetrators and their likely motives.

  1. Strangers. Individuals with criminal intent only constitute about 25 percent of workplace violence incidents, but account for nearly 60 percent of workplace homicides. The primary motive of most of these perpetrators is robbery, though others—like those in the events in Orlando, Charleston, and Aurora—have the sole purpose of carrying out a large-scale violent act and have chosen their targeted location based on the number of people that are likely to be there.
  2. Customers, Clients, or Patients. This category of individuals is responsible for the most workplace violence incidents—somewhere around 40 percent of them—and their motives are the most varied of the perpetrators. Some individuals are unhappy with a product or service received and their reaction escalates into a threat or act of violence. Patients, particularly those with substance abuse or mental health issues, can be particularly volatile and might react to a situation in a threatening or violent way.
  3. Coworkers. Current employees and former employees account for 26 percent and 3 percent of workplace violence perpetrators respectively. These individuals are likely to have an interpersonal conflict with another worker that escalates or to have some type of on-the-job experience—perhaps a poor performance review or job alteration—that has negatively impacted their outlook and behavior.
  4. Domestic Violence Offenders. The least recognized perpetrators of workplace violence are the spouses and partners, or former spouses and partners of your employees. In fact, six percent of workplace violence incidents occur when a personal relationship issue or domestic violence situation erupts at work and colleagues are simply caught in a “wrong place at the wrong time” scenario.

Now you know what workplace violence is and who the most common perpetrators are. So, how common is it exactly?

Looking for more information? Contact Safety on Call online to speak with a safety consultant about preventing workplace violence incidents.

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