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What is Workplace Violence?

To address workplace violence properly at an organization, business owners must first understand exactly what workplace violence covers. According to OSHA, workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Incidents can range from verbal threats to physical assaults, even escalating to acts of homicide. Those displaying violence on the job can include current employees, former employees, disgruntled customers, domestic partners…the list goes on. No business is exempt from the risk of workplace violence – it happens in all industries, all locations and at businesses of all sizes.

Statistics: How Bad is it Out There?

It can be easy to think, “it won’t happen here, and it won’t happen to us.” However, the statistics show that workplace violence is occurring at businesses across the nation every day. You’ve seen headlines like the one below in the newspaper, on the television and across the internet:

“…a recently fired man walks into a UPS facility he'd worked at, shoots dead two people, then takes his own life,”

And, the statistics are eye opening:

Workplace violence statistics


Workplace Violence Incidents: 3 Ingredients

A report by the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence outlines three variables within an organization that, when combined, heighten the chance for a serious incident:

(1) Stressful Event

The definition of a “stressful event” is not concrete; everyone responds to taxing situations in different ways. Yet, there are some circumstances that are generally more stress inducing than others, like the termination of an employee or disrespectful speech between colleagues. Mitigating these situations boils down to (1) creating a positive work environment and (2) giving employees the tools to cope with stress when it does, inevitably, present itself.

Potentially Violent Situation

(2) Emotionally-charged Individual

An organization must learn to recognize the signs of a potentially violent worker. A company must also create a culture around encouraging employees to report these signs, understanding that there will be consequences for unfavorable behavior.

CNN outlines five warning signs to look out for in individuals at your organization:

  1. Actions and emotions. Belligerent, hypersensitive, disorganized, general changes in behavior
  2. Personality conflicts. Anger or obsession around supervisors or coworkers
  3. On-the-job disputes. Upset about something at work, such as discipline
  4. Off-the-job disputes. Divorce, money problems
  5. Talk of weapons/violence. Expressed fascination with weapons, violent themes, high-profile killings

    Download Whitepaper(3) Insensitive, Uncaring, Inflammatory Environment

Managers must take care to create a setting or work environment that contributes to the happiness of its employees. A corporate culture focused on reinforcing positive behaviors, giving feedback, and showing respect, value and trust is key.

Balancing these three variables is necessary to keep workplace violence incidents at bay.

Policy for Mitigating Workplace Violence

Why is it important to create a workplace violence policy? For one, you show your staff the importance that you place upon ensuring their safety and security. You also minimize the chance of an incident that could lead to a loss of productivity, costly lawsuits or bad press – none of which are good for a growing organization.

The Society for Human Resource Management lists some key components to include in an effective workplace violence policy:

  1. Document behaviors that will not be tolerated at your organization, e.g., making threats, causing physical injury.
  2. Create a procedure around reporting potentially dangerous incidents and craft a work environment where those reporting feel safe.
  3. Implement risk reduction measures as related to hiring and creating a secure workspace.
  4. Maintain a list of employees who are at risk for becoming victims and check-in with them frequently.
  5. Devise an action plan for when dangerous or emergency situations do occur.

Write out your policy, communicate it to your staff and live by it, enforce it.

Communication is key to mitigating workplace violence

Reducing Risk through Securing the Entry

Whitepaper: Mitigating Risk with Security EntrancesWhile 21% of workplace violence incidents occur at the hands off existing employees, 79% involve people who should not have been able to access the interior of the building in the first place. Physical security solutions must be in place to keep the disgruntled ex-employee, the jealous husband, or the angry protestor from walking right through a door into the work area.

Many organizations deploy an access control device on a swinging door in an attempt to keep unauthorized individuals from gaining access to their building. However, this method is actually ineffective because of the possibility for tailgating. Tailgating is one of the most common and innocent security breaches. An employee presents credentials at a swinging door, opens it, and politely allows another to enter. This social engineering scenario exposes a building to undocumented and unauthorized entry by individuals who could inflict harm upon your property and/or people. This is especially an issue with ex-employees or spouses and significant others, because employees are more likely to let them enter with them than a stranger because they know or recognize the person. 

To address the risk of tailgating, an organization should couple an access control or biometric device with a physical security entrance such as turnstiles or security revolving doors for employee-only entrances. These physical barriers address tailgating by their design and working principle - as a result, they take the pressure off employees and support security staffing – even reducing the amount of supervision needed, creating a payback. Finally, their very presence as a barrier can deter casual attempts at infiltration and give pause to more formal plans of attack.

Physical Security Entrance Capabilities

If your goal is to keep workplace violence at bay by restricting entry, there are a number of different types of physical security entrances to choose from – tripod and full height turnstiles, optical turnstiles, security revolving doors and mantrap portals. How do you select the right one for your application? Consider each entry point to your building and answer the following questions:Whitepaper: How do security entrances affect an organization's bottom line?

  1. Is the entry point indoors or outdoors?
  2. Are you looking to deter, detect or prevent tailgating?
  3. Will you have guard staff present?
  4. Who will be using the entrance? Only employees, or visitors also?
  5. Are you interested in metrics that can predict your risk of infiltration?

By answering these questions, you can consult with an entry expert to determine the right security entrance for each point of entry at your building, whether that be the fence line perimeter, lobby, side entrance, or areas within your building where sensitive data or executives are located.

Trending: Building Security is Moving Past the Ground Floor

Most entrances to a building that can be accessed by outsiders are at the ground level of the facility. However, we are seeing a new emerging trend. Physical security entrance solutions are moving inside buildings beyond just the main entrance; they protect areas within buildings and upstairs in elevator lobbies they protect whole floors (especially in multi-tenant buildings). This has a number of benefits, specifically when addressing workplace violence:Security is moving upstairs to mitigate workplace violence incidents

  1. If an unauthorized user were to circumvent the first layer, additional entrances are now in place to protect all employees from a complete breach.
  2. Employees within a building are limited in their ability to roam to certain areas of a building, like spaces with highly sensitive information or executive personnel. This stops some employee-on-employee workplace violence incidents.
  3. For a leased building that houses multiple companies, businesses can implement physical security measures on their designated floors when the building owner or manager is reluctant to deploy ground floor security.

When it comes to physical security, a layered approach is best. As more and more organizations begin to adapt the layered approach, we’ll continue to see security entrances installed inside of buildings in multiple locations, in an effort to mitigate workplace violence.

Entrance Enhancements for Workplace Violence Prevention

Whether you would like to deploy security entrance solutions at the ground floors or upper levels of your building, or both, there are a few enhancements you should consider for maximizing the security level of your chosen entrance.

    Download WhitepaperFor lobby security, the optical turnstile is the best solution for handling both employees and visitors efficiently. They also alert nearby guard staff to any instance of tailgating. To enhance this solution for workplace violence mitigation, consider tall barriers and jump over detection sensors to stop an intruder from crawling over the unit. You can use “filler railing” to plug any gap between the turnstile and the building surround/wall where an unauthorized user could squeeze through. And, anti-passback support stops an authorized user from passing his or her badge back to allow a second person through using the same credential.

When it comes to higher security doors and portals, often used as employee-only entrances or for the protection of sensitive data, there are also enhancements that can be incorporated, like anti-piggybacking technology, biometric devices, and bullet-resistant materials.


Mitigating the risk of workplace violence involves a number of factors, including devising a policy, communicating that policy, and implementing physical measures that keep unwanted intruders from ever gaining access to your building. By addressing workplace violence on the front end, you save your organization the costly impacts of an incident: loss of productivity and morale, reduced profits or service levels, and negative PR, to name a few.

For more information on physical security entrances for workplace violence prevention, please contact us at or request a free on-site consultation.

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