April 23, 2021

Workplace Violence – Things to Consider

In today’s world of monthly to weekly shootings, it is more pertinent than ever to be aware of the signs of a potentially violent coworker, employee or customer. There are often mannerisms or comments to watch or listen for that could indicate the possibility of someone becoming aggressive. If this concerning behavior had been reported previously, tragic events could have been prevented.

Unfortunately, recent shootings have demonstrated how volatile some people can become and as a result, develop into an active threat in the workplace. The FedEx shooter was not a current employee at the facility and his motive is still unknown, however, in some cases it is a disgruntled employee/customer or an employee who has recently been terminated. According to a 2018 report from the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, https://www.secretservice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2020-09/MAPS2019.pdf, the motives for violence are varied, but most were related to “grievances, mental health symptoms, and ideological/racial bias.” There are certain behaviors to take note of and report if demonstrated.

If you are worried about your safety or your co-worker’s safety – focusing on your gut reaction is more effective than having a checklist of specific signs; however, there are some indicators, such as a concerning change in behavior or disruptive behavior that causes fear. This does not mean someone is having a particularly bad day, but multiple days of worrisome behavior and it becomes a pattern. If your co-worker, employee or customer is making you fearful, report it through the appropriate channel. Do not be afraid to report it.

It is recommended to have an avenue for employees to report issues or concerns anonymously without fear of reprisal. It is common that the threat of violence is not from co-workers, but domestic partners or other family members. There are generally warning signs prior to the situation becoming explosive. As an employee, the main duty is to report any concerns, not try to investigate.


Some statistics to consider:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20,790 workers in the private industry experienced trauma from nonfatal workplace violence in 2018. These incidents required days away from work.1

Of those victims who experienced trauma from workplace violence:

  • 71% were female
  • 64% were aged 25 to 54
  • 73% worked in the healthcare and social assistance industry
  • 20% required 31 or more days away from work to recover, and 21% involved 3 to 5 days away from work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 453 U.S. workers were workplace homicide victims in 2018.2

Of those victims who died from workplace violence:

  • 82% were male
  • 47% were white
  • 66% were aged 25 to 54
  • 20% were working in sales and related occupations, 19% were performing protective service activities

Per the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

  • Do attend all employer-provided training on how to recognize, avoid, and respond to potentially violent situations.
  • Do report perceived threats or acts of violence to your manager or supervisor, following any existing policies that may be in place.
  • Do remain aware of and support coworkers and customers if a threatening or violent situation occurs.
  • Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent. If needed, go to a safe area (ideally, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).
  • Don’t attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies or other policies or practices related to COVID-19 (e.g., limits on number of household or food products).



If your company is interested in setting up active shooter training or reviewing your security measures, please contact our office.

Rick Phillips                                   Cody Cobb                                                       (706) 886-9929 = direct         (706) 225-2526 = direct                          (706) 491-9888 = mobile       (706) 491-5138 = mobile     rickphillips@jrphillips.com    ccobb@jrphillips.com