For Immediate Release

December 1, 2003



Jennifer McDuffee
(770) 455-7757 x105

Shannon McDaniel
Brand Resources Group
(678) 996-2003

AAOHN and FBI Deliver Workplace Violence
Prevention Tips and Tools to Prepare Workforce

ATLANTA — Experts claim that workplace violence rarely strikes without warning, but according to a new study on the issue, the majority of the workforce does not recognize those potential warning signs. This is one of many compelling findings from a recent study commissioned by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN), indicating the need for employee education and training on workplace violence.

"AAOHN’s study found that nearly 20 percent of the entire workforce claimed they have experienced an episode of workplace violence first-hand, yet the majority still do not know what to look for when it comes to determining potential offender characteristics," said AAOHN President Susan A. Randolph. "These findings alone define a significant need for companies to commit to and implement workplace violence education and prevention programs. Without employee education, a company will be far less able to diffuse a potential violent situation before it arises."

AAOHN’s survey was designed to gauge employee knowledge around the issue of workplace violence and demonstrate the need for violence prevention education. To help ensure survey accuracy, experts from the FBI’s National Center for Analysis and Violent Crime, who are currently developing a workplace violence monograph available to companies later this year, were consulted during the development of survey criteria. Respondents to AAOHN’s survey were asked about their personal experiences, concerns, perceptions and overall awareness of the issue. Following are key findings from those questions:

Recognizing the Warning Signs
As stated above, the AAOHN survey found the vast majority of respondents did not recognize many of the key workplace violence warning signs, which have been identified by the FBI. In fact, when given a list of "red flag" behaviors, less than 4 percent of respondents were able to identify some of the most common warning signs usually seen in potential offenders. These warning signs include changes in mood, personal hardships, mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety), negative behavior (e.g. untrustworthy, lying, bad attitude), verbal threats and past history of violence.

Defining Workplace Violence – Men vs. Women
According to the FBI, workplace violence can be defined as any action that may threaten the safety of an employee, impact the employee's physical or psychological well-being, or cause damage to company property. When survey respondents were given a list of examples and asked to flag what they perceived as actions of workplace violence, the majority of respondents were in agreement of what was and was not considered violence. However, when answers were analyzed by gender, there was a significant difference between what men and women considered to be workplace violence, especially when it came to such actions as stalking, threats and intimidation, and sexual harassment:

  • Stalking:
    • 73 percent of men in comparison to 94 percent of women agreed that stalking was a form of workplace violence. A margin of more than 20 percent.
  • Threats and intimidation:
    • 76 percent of men in comparison to 90 percent of women agreed that threats and intimidation were examples of workplace violence. A margin of nearly 15 percent.  
  • Sexual harassment:
    • 83 percent of men in comparison to 97 percent of women agreed that sexual harassment is a form of workplace violence. A margin of nearly 15 percent.

[NOTE: The AAOHN survey primarily focuses on employee-on-employee violence, which is the most common source of threats or assaults on the workplace violence continuum. Other important types of workplace violence stem from domestic disputes that spill over into the workplace; robberies or other crimes; or violence committed on an employee by a non-employee (customer, client, etc.)]

Workplace Violence Prevention
In response to findings such as the ones outlined in the AAOHN survey and the overarching prevalence of workplace violence among the U.S. workforce, AAOHN and the FBI offer the following guidance to help companies develop workplace prevention and education programs. They include the following:

AAOHN Tips for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs
AAOHN recommends taking the following steps to effectively develop and implement a workplace violence education program:

  • Management should conduct a thorough organizational risk assessment and develop workplace violence prevention policies and programs that address potential risks in environmental design (security cameras, key card access), administrative controls and behavioral strategies.
  • Programs should clearly define the spectrum of workplace violence (ranging from harassment to homicide), delineate employee responsibilities for recognizing and reporting signs, and be shared with every employee. All programs should promote zero tolerance.
  • Ask for and integrate employee ideas when developing and implementing a violence prevention program.
  • Create a confidential and seamless reporting system. Encourage workers to report any and all concerns to a single representative, such as an occupational health and safety professional or human resource manager.
  • Incorporate a variety of communications tools such as posters, newsletters, staff meetings and new employee materials.
  • When training employees, review common warning signs, behavioral traits and how to recognize potential problems. Employees should also understand that each case is different, and to not limit at risk behavior to a standard profile.
  • Involve all employees in workplace violence prevention programs. Training should be ongoing and mandatory for every employee.
  • As an employee, actively participate in all education and awareness programs. If you do not have a violence prevention program at work, request information from your occupational health department, human resource department or manager.
  • As an employee, if you recognize that a colleague exhibits at risk behavior, report any concerns to your human resources representative or occupational health professional.

The FBI Workplace Violence Monograph – A Tool for Management and Employees
During June 2002, the FBI convened a symposium consisting of 150 recognized experts in workplace violence and violent behavior, including occupational health and safety professionals, law enforcement, government, victim services, the military, academia and mental health professionals. Based on the findings and recommendations of this symposium, the FBI has developed a workplace violence monograph as a tool to increase knowledge of potential warning signs of workplace violence and raise awareness of the overall issue.

"There is not one absolute factor that predisposes an individual to workplace violence. Managers and employees should be familiar with each potential warning sign, but look at a totality of factors including the work environment, the employee’s home-life and his or her behavior as a whole," said Eugene A. Rugala, supervisory special agent for the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. "Companies that have a workplace violence prevention and education program are much better prepared to catch and prevent a dangerous situation before it occurs. With tools like the FBI monograph and professional associations like AAOHN encouraging proper company training programs, we are moving a step further to a safer and more productive workplace."

Company management, occupational health and safety professionals, employees and the general public will be able to access the FBI monograph via this Web site after the first of the year (2004).

The AAOHN Workplace Violence Survey was conducted by International Communications Research (ICR) in October 2003 and included 500 telephone interviews among full-time employees ages 18 years and older. The margin of error for this study is plus or minus 4.4 percent.

At the request of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN), ICR was commissioned to conduct a study to uncover the perceptions, concerns and awareness of the issue of workplace violence among the working population. For more information about AAOHN’s workplace violence study, choose a link below:

Established in 1942, AAOHN is a 10,000 member professional association dedicated to advancing the health, safety and productivity of domestic and global workforces by providing education, research, public policy and practice resources for occupational and environmental health nurses. These professionals are the largest group of health care providers serving the worksite.

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American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc.
2920 Brandywine Rd. • Suite 100 • Atlanta, GA 30341
(770) 455-7757 • Fax (770) 455-7271 •



AAOHN’s Workplace Violence Survey Snapshot