Workplace violence can happen anywhere at any time. It can involve a single victim, such as the apartment manager stabbed to death in Everett in July 2010. It can involve multiple victims, as in the shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, when a gunman shot six workers, killing one, in July 2006.

News media accounts of these shootings, assaults, and other acts of violence at the workplace have heightened awareness of this problem.

Workers in some industries, such as health care or retail establishments, are more likely than others to experience violence on the job. For that reason, Washington State has laws that require workplace violence prevention programs in health care settings, psychiatric hospitals and late night retail establishments, like convenience stores.

You can find out more about these safety rules for workers in these industries in Appendix E.

Regardless of whether your worksite falls within these rules, however, every business should consider establishing a workplace violence prevention plan.

Such a plan does not have to be complicated, time consuming or expensive. Ask yourself, “What kind of workplace violence could happen at my work?” Then use this guide and the tips included to plan ways to reduce the possibility of violence at work.

Workplace violence causes a significant number of fatalities and injuries in Washington and throughout the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reports that homicides due to workplace violence are the fourth-leading cause of work-related deaths. For women, violence is the second leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2009 showed violence as the second-leading cause of workplace deaths in Washington State. Transportation accidents, being “struck by” equipment or objects and falls accounted for most other workplace fatalities. In addition, in 2009 Washington State experienced its highest number of workplace violence-related deaths in more than a decade. Of 62 work-related fatalities, 13 were on-the-job homicides and seven were suicides.

Violence is the second leading cause of work related death for women in the United States.

Nationally, non-fatal acts of violence in the workplace are numerous. In 2009, approximately 572,000 non-fatal violent crimes (rape/sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault) occurred against workers, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey.

There is a strong association between violence in the home or community, and violence in the workplace. For example, BLS data from 1997–2009 show that 381 women killed in the workplace were murdered by a husband, male partner, or other relative or acquaintance.

Employers can take steps to make the workplace safer. It is critical that business, labor, social and health services, education, law enforcement and government undertake a collaborative approach to prevention.

For more information on how you can prevent workplace violence, see


NOTE: Accommodation and food services is one of the industries listed as high risk in Washington state for workplace violence.


If you have any further questions about this topic or others, see the Department of Labor & Industries’ Help for Small Business page at


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This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Hospitality Association here.

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