Workplace Violence: What is it, and how can you prevent it?

Workplace violence is anything that causes someone to feel that they are at risk of harm - threatening behaviour, verbal or written threats, harassment, verbal abuse, physical attacks, etc. And workplace does not just mean the traditional workspace – it can be at work-related events (trade shows, conferences), work social events, in clients’ homes, or even away from work but resulting from work – for example, a threatening call from a client to an employee’s home. 
Doing a risk assessment allows you to break down potential hazards, prioritise the level of risk and put best practices in place to prevent future incidents. The risk assessment should be done in consultation with the employer, management, employees and the OH&S representative/committee. 

Hazards and Risks

A hazard is a thing/condition/substance/behavior, and the risk is the likelihood that the hazard will cause injury or disease. For example, if you're walking down a road the hazard would be getting hit by a car. The risk would be greater on a busy city street than on a quiet country road. 
First you have to identify the hazard(s):

  • Look at all aspects of the business,
  • Review previous accident/incident reports,
  • Interview employees or conduct a survey, and
  • Inspect the workplace. 

Take into consideration:

  • The nature of the work activities,
  • The working conditions,
  • The design of the work activities and environment, and
  • The frequency of situations. 

Risk factors can include:

  • working with the public,
  • working with volatile or unstable persons,
  • premises where alcohol is served,
  • handling money, valuables or prescription drugs,
  • providing care, service advice or education,
  • working alone.

Risk = Probability x Severity






Permanent disability/fatality/significant property damage Moderate High High
Serious injury/illness/property damage Low Moderate High
Minor injury or property damage Low Moderate Moderate
No injury or illness Low Low Low
  Unlikely Likely Very Likely

Once you know the risk, you can prioritise which hazards need to be dealt with first, and either eliminate the risk, or work to reduce it.

CFIB members can contact a Business Advisor at 1-833-568-2342 or to request risk assessment guides and template policies.

Not a member yet? JOIN CFIB today for more help and information.