Most Common Causes of Workplace Violence

Most Common Causes of Workplace Violence

by / Monday, 04 July 2022 / Published in Workplace Woes
Angry man in a suit yells at an intimidated woman.

Not all workplace injuries are the result of things like falls or incidents with powerful machinery. It’s estimated that about two million workers in the United States report being victims of on-the-job violence each year and about 400 people are the victims of workplace homicides. Even if a person doesn’t directly experience violence on the job, there’s a good chance they’ve witnessed aggressive situations between co-workers or between a co-worker and a customer. 

Types of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence can include things like verbal or written threats and physical assaults and can be broken down further into more categories depending on who was the violent party in the incident. In some cases, the violent person may be someone like a customer of a business. Other times, it might involve violence from a current or former employee or a person who has a personal relationship with an employee, such as an employee’s boyfriend. Or, in some cases, it involves a person who is unknown to an employer or their employees. 

Employer Responsibility & Workplace Violence

According to OSHA, there are no specific standards for violence in the workplace. However, they also note that under Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide employees with a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” While OSHA lacks specific standards for workplace violence, they state that if an employer has experienced acts of workplace violence in the past, becomes aware of threats and intimidation of employees, or is aware of other indications of potential violence in the workplace, the employer would be considered to be “on notice” and should implement policies to prevent acts of violence against their employees that include training, administrative steps, and engineering controls. 

OSHA does provide some violence prevention guidance for industries that have a recognized high risk of violence in the workplace, including healthcare and social work and retail establishments open late at night.

Causes of Workplace Violence

Environmental Factors

In many cases, there are issues within the work environment itself that makes employees vulnerable to violence at work. This can include a lack of security systems, unmonitored entrances, areas that are poorly lit, and spaces that might be difficult to escape from in an emergency. In settings where people are very likely to be in heightened emotional states, unsecured furniture and decorative items can also be easy for people to grab and use as weapons. 

Environmental factors can also extend to people who work outside of a traditional brick-and-mortar building. For example, social workers and home health care providers face a high risk of violence on the job because they often need to travel to areas with high crime rates and tend to work alone.

Clinical Factors

One reason why workplace violence is so common among healthcare workers is because they need to work with patients who are under the influence of drugs or medication, who are in significant amounts of pain, or have certain psychiatric conditions that make them more prone to lashing out in violent ways. 


For workers in certain types of jobs, violence can occur because the work inherently makes them vulnerable to crimes. Cab drivers, food delivery drivers, and cashiers at fast food restaurants or other retail establishments, for instance, can be easy targets for robbers since these types of workers either routinely carry some amount of cash on them or can access cash very quickly. 

Employer Inaction

Employers have the power to help prevent violence in the workplace in multiple ways, including pre-employment screenings, watching for warning signs of violence, and quickly dealing with disgruntled employees/customers. For example, a pre-employment screening could alert an employer that a person who is being considered for a job has a history of violent behavior. 

Contact a Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured as a result of on-the-job violence, it’s very important to speak to a workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible. If an employer knew that there was a risk for violence but did not take reasonable, appropriate steps to prevent violence in the workplace, you need someone on your side who can help you understand how the law applies to your situation. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in helping the victims of workplace injuries in the state of Michigan. Contact us today to find out how we can help.