Workplace safety: Assess risk to protect employees

Q. What are the risk factors for workplace violence at my company?
Friday, August 24, 2012

A. Criminologists categorize workplace violence into four types, each with different risk factors. The main risks to DME employees come from the first two types: 1) criminal violence by a stranger; and 2) violence from a patient, client or customer. 

Nearly 80% of workplace homicides are type 1. Theft or assaults are the usual motives and this type of violent actor is most likely to be armed. Risk factors include working alone and being perceived as possessing cash or other valuables. 

With type 2, mental health disorders like dementia are often evident. Dementia has been identified as a factor in almost 90% of physical assaults on nursing home assistants.

Risk assessment should be the first step in creating and implementing a workplace violence  prevention and mitigation plan. Ask employees if they are concerned for themselves or others. Record and review any incidents of violence by creating incident reports. Determine whether your workplace has any of the risk factors associated with violence. Consult with local law enforcement and/or check online reports, such as crime maps.

Identify what locations are most at risk for violence. Drill down further to identify specific buildings or businesses that are at risk of violent crime (e.g. clinics and group homes). Also, areas isolated from other buildings or structures are at risk. If your team routinely services riskier locations, determine what time of day violence is most likely to occur, and which days of the week and month require more awareness and precautions.

Joe Rosner is an expert on personal safety, workplace violence and self defense for healthcare occupations. He can be reached at