Building a Response Program for Workplace Violence

August 2, 2022

Learn the keys to building a response program to prepare and respond to workplace violence from Director of Safety Aaron Paris.

Building a Response Program for Workplace Violence

We see a lot of news coverage about shootings and violent acts, especially when such events happen at churches and schools. Yet businesses are at a significantly higher risk for active violence. In fact, workplace violence is in the top four leading causes of workplace deaths according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 2020 alone there were 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities attributed to workplace violence. You always hope such an event will never happen at your business, and some may believe the chances are slim. Yet it is vital to remain proactive and create a safety plan should an incident take place. Here are elements to consider as you craft your company’s response program.

Preparing & Responding to Workplace Violence
Read the full guide to learn more on coverage options and how to communicate during a crisis.

Be Proactive

Know the Types of Workplace Violence

There are four types of workplace violence that businesses should consider
when building their response program:

  • Criminal Intent: No business relationship and enters to commit a criminal act.
  • Customer/Client: Current or former client of the business.
  • Co-Worker: Has an employment relationship with the business, current or former.
  • Personal Relationship: Does not work at the business but has a relationship with an employee.

Create Policies

Businesses should have a standing policy and procedure for workplace violence.
The policy should detail the following:

  • Zero tolerance toward threats or acts of violence.
  • A confidential reporting procedure for perceived threats of violence.
  • Means to promptly investigate all such threats or violent acts.
  • Firm discipline for violations of policy.
  • Run, Hide, Fight protocols (Department Of Homeland Security).

Plan for Continuity

In the event an incident occurs, business interruption is highly likely. Planning for such interruptions will provide businesses a clearer path in an uncertain time.
Identify contingencies for:

  • Business processes
  • Assets
  • Human resources
  • Business partners

Responding to an Event

Run, Hide, Fight

Educate employees on how to respond to an event and where emergency exit routes are located. Employees should respond in one of three ways:


  • If the ability to leave the area presents itself, LEAVE.
  • Do not worry about taking personal items.
  • Get out!


  • Find a location that can be secured.
  • Barricade the room to prevent entry.
  • Stack chairs, desks, filing cabinets, etc. at doors.


  • The last resort is to be ready to fight the assailant.
  • Be resourceful and find objects to assist defending yourself.

Contacting First Responders

Calling 911 and giving them as much information as possible is critical for an appropriate response. Provide what you know. The “who, what, when, where and how” model works best in giving the most concise and important information.

Assembly Area (Rally Point)

Unlike fires and other emergencies, meeting at the front of the building may not be advisable. Finding a location close but offsite may be a better solution.

Choose a Company Representative

Consider designating a company representative to coordinate with law enforcement and EMS onsite. Choose someone who maintains calm under extreme stress.

Family Assistance Center

A location for families of those affected in the event to get answers to their questions.
Provide a separate area for family of deceased victims to grieve in privacy and serve as a shield from media.
Information and resources to share include:

  • The hospitals victims have been transported to and assembly areas.
  • The process and location for reunification of family and friends.
  • Temporary housing and meals.
  • A needs assessments.

Give Employees Support While Moving Forward

Supporting Employees

  • Promote your Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
  • Help employees access the EAP.
  • Assist employees with work and personal related problems.
  • Provide grief counseling.
  • Provide appropriate leave time for recuperation from injuries and disabilities caused by the incident.

Reopening Your Facility

  • Most facilities will reopen relatively soon after an event if there are no significant physical damages to building.
  • Most individuals can return to normal routines.
  • Some individuals may need more time or may be unable to return.
  • Help employees recognize the need to pace themselves, depending on the event’s severity.

About The Author

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP
Email As the Director of Safety, Property & Casualty, Aaron has more than six years of experience in workplace safety and 12 years in law enforcement. Aaron consults with clients on a wide variety of safety issues such as worker safety, auto, property risk and other safety procedures. He is also authorized to teach OSHA 10- and 30- hour courses.