What is workplace violence?

Most people think of violence as a physical assault. However, workplace violence is a much broader problem. It is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment.

Workplace violence includes:

threatening behaviour - such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects. 

verbal or written threats - any expression of an intent to inflict harm.

harassment - any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.

verbal abuse - swearing, insults or condescending language. 

physical attacks - hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking. 

Rumours, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.

Workplace violence is not limited to incidents that occur within a traditional workplace. Work-related violence can occur at off-site business-related functions (conferences, trade shows), at social events related to work, in clients’ homes or away from work but resulting from work (a threatening telephone call to your home from a client).


The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety ( CCOHS )


(toll-free in Canada)

1-905-572-4400 (8:30 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Time)

1-905-572-4500 (FAX)