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Recognizing the Warning Signs: Workplace Violence

Experts claim that workplace violence rarely strikes without warning, but according to a new study on the issue, the majority of the work force does not recognize those potential warning signs.

A recent study commissioned by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN) indicates the need for employee education and training on workplace violence.

AAOHN's study found that nearly 20% of the entire workforce claimed they have experienced an episode of workplace violence firsthand, yet the majority still do not know what to look for when it comes to determining potential offender characteristics.

The study findings define a significant need for companies to commit to and implement workplace violence education and prevention programs. The survey found the vast majority of respondents did not recognize many of the key workplace violence warning signs, which have been identified by the FBI. In fact, when given a list of "red flag" behaviors, less than 4% of respondents were able to identify some of the most common warning signs usually seen in potential offenders. These warning signs include changes in mood, personal hardships, mental health issues (i.e. depression, anxiety), negative behavior (i.e. untrustworthiness, lying, bad attitude), verbal threats and past history of violence.

According to the FBI, workplace violence can be defined as nay action that may threaten the safety of an employee, impact the employee's physical or psychological well-being, or cause damage to company property. AAOHN recommends taking the following steps to effectively develop and implement a workplace violence education program:

  • Conduct a thorough organizational risk assessment and develop workplace violence prevention policies and programs.
  • Clearly define the spectrum of workplace violence (ranging from harassment to homicide) and delineate employee responsibilities for recognizing and reporting signs.
  • Integrate employee ideas when developing and implementing a violence prevention program.
  • Create a confidential and seamless reporting systems.