The Changing Landscape of Workplace Violence: Contributing Factors & Employer Obligations To Keep in Mind

Our CEO Daniel R. Pascale details the factors contributing to workplace violence and what employers need to do to address this changing landscape.

June 07, 2023 — by Daniel R. Pascale, CEO

Since 2014, the American workforce has experienced over a million violent crimes every year. Per the Department of Labor Statistics, in 2020 alone, more than 20,000 workers in private industry were subjected to assault resulting in lost workdays, and 392 workers were victims of workplace homicide. In 2021, the number of fatalities rose to 481.

Workplace violence not only takes a toll on its victims, families, and coworkers, but also results in significant losses in productivity, especially due to missed workdays. Other ways in which workplace violence impacts productivity is by increasing employees’ stress and burnout, which often lead to greater workforce turnover.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers four types of incidents to fall under the umbrella of workplace violence: criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker, and domestic relations. The variety of scenarios that can give rise to violence in the workplace must be an important consideration for any business updating its policies, procedures, and mitigation/response plans in order to enhance the safety of its workers. This is especially true because violent workplace incidents can be perpetrated both by outsiders—be it vandals and criminals or aggrieved domestic partners—and by current or former employees.

Factors Contributing to the Rise in Workplace Violence


While certain industries, like retail, transportation, and health care, are particularly vulnerable to workforce violence due to high stress and high levels of interaction with the public, workplace violence has plagued virtually every corner of the American economy. Therefore, when we think about workplace violence, we need to consider it in the context of what is currently happening in our society at large.

2022 meta meta-study found that 58.7% of health care workers in hospitals and pre-hospital setting have experienced workplace violence

It’s not surprising to find that the current rise in workforce violence mirrors an increase in violent crime in general. The factors contributing to the current spike in violence are complex and interwoven. The main factors are:

  • Economic conditions, including inflation and an increased sense of economic instability
  • COVID-19-related social isolation and the fraying of community ties
  • Social and political polarization
  • Access to weapons, both legal and illegal
  • Use of illegal drugs
  • Mental health challenges and inadequate access to mental health services
  • 24/7 news cycle that fosters a perpetual feeling of crisis in some individuals and can ignite unrest in moments
  • Domestic terrorism

In addition to the factors listed above, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of safety challenges for the business community:

  • Remote and hybrid workforces loosen the social bonds between colleagues and can prevent the socialization and relationship-building of new employees.
  • Schedule inconsistencies, rotating days off, and split schedules, lead to uncertainty about who’s supposed to be in the office on what days and who does what on a given day.
  • Many workplaces have reduced the space they physically occupy or reconfigured the layout of their facilities, and some have started sharing their space with other businesses to reduce overhead costs.

Awareness of these factors is essential in realistic safety planning. Understanding your business’s vulnerabilities to these factors will help mitigate the threat to your employees, customers, and vendors and will create a more secure environment.

Meeting Employer Obligations to Reduce Workplace Violence Under the Current OSHA General Duty Clause


Workplace violence is a key issue for the current administration. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stepped up its inspections and enforcement recently, especially for industries where workplace violence is common.

  • To lessen the risk of an OSHA citation after a workplace violence incident, employers should review OSHA’s set of recommendations for workplace violence prevention programs to make sure they are following OSHA’s guidance.

While many state OSHA agencies have rules for workplace violence for specific industries and sectors, there are currently no specific federal OSHA standards for workplace violence. In its citations and other enforcement actions, OSHA primarily relies on the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act. The General Duty Clause obligates employers to provide employment conditions free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

A 2021 study found almost 50% of teachers are interested in quitting or transferring their jobs due to concerns about school climate and school

For a workplace violence incident to be considered a “hazard” under the General Duty Clause, there had to have been some employer knowledge so that the employer could have taken preventative measures.

  • Take stock of the evolving workplace violence landscape, including the factors currently driving violent behaviors and how these factors may impact your industry generally and business specifically. This process can identify risk elements that are foreseeable and should be mitigated.

If you would like to discuss whether your current security measures are adequate according to OSHA’s guidance or identify impactful strategies for reducing the risk of workplace violence in your business, reach out to Daniel Pascale, CPP, CEO of COSECURE, and a board certified security and emergency management professional with over 25 years of experience in the field. 



Headshot of Dan Pascale
Dan is a board-certified security and emergency management professional, with more than 25 years of experience as a practitioner, consultant, instructor, trainer, keynote speaker, author, and volunteer leader. As CEO of COSECURE, Dan is responsible for setting the overall strategic consulting and business development strategies including lateral acquisition and identification of emerging markets. Dan manages a team of security professionals, former federal, state and local law enforcement, military and emergency management officials with unparalleled skills in physical security, cybersecurity and compliance, emergency preparedness & business continuity. The COSECURE team tailors services to serve the largest of Fortune 100 companies, hospitals, universities, K-12 schools, and government entities, as well as small businesses and home offices. Contact Dan →


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