Around 2 million people are victims of workplace violence each year according to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Workplace violence is a broad term which includes many different acts that can be committed in the workplace. These acts include physical violence, harassment, verbal abuse, intimidation or any other threatening behavior.

Workplace violence can take place between anyone involved with the place of work, meaning it can affect clients, customers and visitors in addition to employers and employees. According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace violence falls into four categories:

  1. Criminal Intent
  2. Customer/Client
  3. Worker-on-Worker
  4. Personal Relationship

When discussing workplace violence it is important to understand different types of violence and the channels through which they can be achieved.

As with any other violence, workplace violence can be achieved through many different channels. Some of the most prevalent channels being physical touch, verbal and digital. A growing concern and easy channel for workplace violence is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the act of harassing someone online, often anonymously. Employees should understand the nature of cyberbullying and that this form of workplace violence, whether accessed at work or not, can have serious ramifications and consequences.

According to TALGlobal, an international security consulting and risk management firm, cyberbullying can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • emails including offensive content or explicit or implicit threats
  • posts, tweets and other forms of display and sharing on multiple social media platforms
  • orchestrated campaigns of rumors, innuendo and gossip using multiple chat forms, discussion groups, message and bulletin boards and other digital networking and communications applications

As with understanding types of workplace violence, it is just as important to understand the reach and impact it can have. According to NIOSH, the impact of workplace violence can range from psychological issues to physical injury and even death. Violence in the workplace can, and does, become fatal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 409 workers were workplace homicide victims in 2014.

Every organization and employer should address workplace violence and have a prevention plan in place. A large part of prevention is employee training. When an employee is trained they can recognize inappropriate behavior and know what to do if they witness or are subjected to such behaviors.

OSHA provides ways employers can protect their employees:

  • Provide a secure workplace
  • Provide drop safes to limit the amount of cash on hand
  • Equip field staff with cell phones and hand-held alarms or noise devices
  • Instruct employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe
  • Develop policies and procedures covering visits by home health-care providers.

And ways employees can protect themselves:

  • Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations
  • Alert supervisors to any concerns about safety or security
  • Avoid traveling alone into unfamiliar locations or situations
  • Carry only minimal money and required identification