Skip Navigation

Who is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk to be a victim of workplace violence

OSHA’s Workplace Violence website states that nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. There is no doubt that many more events occur but are unreported.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Special Report on Workplace Violence, published in 2011, strangers committed the greatest proportion of nonfatal workplace violence against males (53%) and females (41%) between 2005 and 2009. Special Report on Workplace Violence

In 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that 9,950 assaults on workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector were severe enough that time off from work was needed to recover from the injuries. The BLS also conducted the Census of Fatal Occupational Fatalities, which recorded an annual average of 21 workplace homicides for the healthcare and social assistance industry sector during 2003 through 2009. These data indicate that although healthcare workers represent only 4% of fatal workplace assaults annually, they account for the majority of nonfatal workplace assaults (59%) in the private sector.

The truth is that workplace violence can strike anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune.

Factors that increase risk

Several federal, state, and local authorities have researched and identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Some of these factors are:

OHSA's Workplace Violence website lists several risk factors:

  • Contact with the public
  • Exchange of money
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  • Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab or police cruiser
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late at night or during early morning hours
  • Working in high-crime areas
  • Guarding valuable property or possessions
  • Working in community-based settings

In the mid 1990s, as workplace violence was becoming an increasingly studied topic, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration developed a model that utilized three distinct types of workplace violence based on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim.  Later, the Cal/OSHA typology was modified into the system that remains in wide use today and is often referred to as the OSHA typologies: 

Type I – Criminal Intent: The perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employee, and is usually committing a crime in conjunction with the violence.  This type is often committed by a stranger and includes crimes such as robbery, shoplifting, trespassing, and terrorism.  The majority of workplace homicides fall into this category.

 Type II – Customer/Client: The perpetrator has a legitimate relationship with the business and becomes violent during the course of being served by the business.  This type includes customers, clients, patients, students, and inmates – essentially, anyone being served by the efforts of the organization. 

Type III – Worker-on-Worker: The perpetrator is an employee or past employee of the business and attacks or threatens another employee or past employee in the workplace.  Worker-on-worker fatalities account for 7% of all workplace homicides. Work-on-Worker Fatalities

Type IV – Personal Relationship: The perpetrator usually does not have a relationship with the business but has a personal relationship with the victim or intended victim.  This type includes victims of domestic or intimate partner violence.

OSHA typologies

No matter the perceived level of risk, prevention strategies are critical.