5 Red Flag Behaviors of Workplace Violence & Preventive Practices for Employer Liability Protection


The concept of abrupt mental health instability is generally false. People don’t just “lose it” – there are always signs and precipitating events that contribute to these breaks. While most do not consider their place of employment to be a “danger zone”, failing to remain aware of the people we see every day can lead to disaster and devastation. 

Workplace violence is an act or threat against workers, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assault and homicide. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

    • Homicide was the second leading cause of death due to workplace injury
    • 75% of all occupational homicides were the result of gun use
    • Non-fatal workplace assaults resulted in nearly 900,000 lost work days and $16 million annually in lost wages

5 Red Flag Behaviors of Workplace Violence

This is where it gets interesting; typically dangerous employees will not post signs identifying themselves as violent. Instead, they exhibit behaviors which serve as clues to their compromised mental well-being, such as:

  1. Performance deterioration and oversensitivity to feedback/criticism
  2. Obsession with a coworker or employee grievance
  3. Tragic event fascination and recent acquisition of weapons
  4. Dramatic mood swings including belligerent/angry outbursts
  5. Ominous threats of harming self or others

Preventive Practices and Employer Liability Protection

Negligent screening of employment candidates could place you in the “hot seat”.

In accordance with OSHA standards and regulations, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for employees. Identifying potentially violent applicants before hiring is the most effective way to prevent workplace violence. With regard to privacy protections and antidiscrimination laws, employers would defend themselves by showing there were no mentions or indications of violent tendencies in the criminal background checks and reference checks of applicants.

By Holly Foxworth

Courtesy of Axiom

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