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The warning signs of workplace violence

October 23, 2017
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The warning signs of workplace violence — those canaries in the coal mines — come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, the four different types of workplace violence perpetrators each have unique warning signs that signal something might be simmering under the surface.

Fortunately, the perpetrators who commit the largest number of workplace violence incidents — customers, clients and patients — exhibit a number of warning signs that signal something is amiss. These include an increased number of complaints or escalating frustration with a product, service or situation. Their behavior might prompt your employees to express concern. Or some of your businesses might experience security breaches or other “close call” events.

Workplace violence incidents committed by current or former employees also often come with numerous warning signs. Worsening behavior or performance or even changes in the appearance of an employee should be noted and addressed. A history of conflict, lack of cooperation, difficult behavior, or negative reactions to authority or criticism can point to a potential for future violent incidents as well.

Strangers committing workplace violence incidents can be a little harder to predict. However, increasing levels of crime in a particular area or in the same industry (for example, a string of convenience store robberies) could indicate an increased likelihood that an event might occur. In addition, poor security or poor environmental design pose an increased risk for violent incidents caused by strangers.

The final perpetrators of workplace violence — domestic violence aggressors — may seem hard to predict, but the majority of the warning signs in these situations come through your employees. Any mention of harassment, stalking or physical violence in a relationship is an obvious warning sign. Fearfulness, anxiety and deteriorating performance can be signs as well. In these cases, providing both support and safety to your employee help ensure a safe environment for your entire workplace.

Beyond simply knowing the warning signs of workplace violence, having a system to track, report and address them is vital to preventing incidents. The U.S. Department of Labor offers extensive resources to help with this process.

Questions about workplace violence? Contact Safety On Call at

Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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