Violence in the Workplace

Workplace violence takes many forms. It can include verbal threats, physical assault — even death — and poses a significant threat to the safety, security and well-being of employers and employees.

Of great concern when it comes to violence in the workplace is that businesses continue to under-report non-fatal injuries, which can lead to apathy and less than adequate protection of workplaces. Also of concern is the lack of urgency with which employers' communicate their emergency preparedness plans to employees, as evidence by a recent report that found 30 percent of workers polled reported being unaware of their employers' plans of this nature — plans that were in place, but not shared.

For some time now, health care employers in California have been required to address workplace violence (see Industry-Specific Workplace Violence Requirements); for non-health care employers, however, workplace violence has been regulated using Cal/OSHA's Injury and Illness Prevention standard (see Injury and Illness Prevention Program).

But California employers might soon be in for a significant change, as the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is working on a “Workplace Violence Prevention in All Industries” standard that may become law in the near future.

Employers would be wise to get ahead of the requirement by:

  • Evaluating and assessing risk factors and warning signs of potential violence that may be present in their workplaces;
  • Identifying and recording the frequency with which violence permeates their workplaces;
  • Recognizing the unique environmental factors that allow violence to escalate in their workplaces;
  • Developing a workplace violence prevention policy; and
  • Training employees on violence recognition and response.

Employers also would be wise to not only create work environments in which it's difficult for hostile and aggressive behavior to take root, but also widely publicize the resources available to address troubled employees, as well as problematic customers and clients. In addition, it's important for employers to keep a record of incidents that have occurred so they can periodically review their internal incident logs and look for patterns and vulnerabilities.


CalChamber would like to thank Dennis A. Davis, Ph.D., for his contribution to the Violence in the Workplace chapter.

Dennis is recognized nationally as an expert on workplace violence prevention, workplace bullying, conflict resolution, sexual harassment and cultural diversity. He serves as the National Director of Client Training for Ogletree Deakins, a nationwide labor and employment law firm. In that capacity, he develops and implements training programs that are designed to minimize the risks associated with inappropriate employee behavior.

Dennis spent many years writing, researching and lecturing at large and small workplaces in particular on the reduction of violence in society.

Further Information

Some of the information in this chapter was based on Cal/OSHA’s Guidelines for Workplace Security. For a complete copy of the guidelines, write to:

Department of Industrial Relations
Division of Occupational Safety and Health
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1901
Oakland, CA 94612