"Risk factors" are factors relevant to the potential risk for violence. A "risk assessment" is the process whereby management, with the assistance of qualified professionals, uses the team approach to evaluate a situation or incident that causes fear, and which may pose a risk to workplace safety. In this process, an attempt is made to identify and evaluate a "theme" of risk factors within the context of a situation. The objective of a risk assessment is to assist management in developing a plan to reduce risk to employee safety. Risk factors include, but are not limited to:
- intimidating, belligerent, harassing, bullying, or other inappropriate and aggressive behavior that causes fear for personal safety
- sudden, extreme changes in behavior
- irrational, bizarre comments
- displays heightened levels of anger that causes fear and apprehension
- open comments about wanting to "get even" with co-workers or management
- repeated talk of being the target of a "conspiracy"
- frequent disputes and conflicts with co-workers, supervisors, or others at the worksite
- frequently overreacts in a hostile/aggressive manner to situations, this conduct causing others to "walk on eggshells" around the individual and to have a "gut feeling" that, given the "right trigger," who knows what this individual might do
- co-workers fear talking about or reporting the individual's bullying/intimidating behavior because they fear retaliation by the individual
- direct threat (identifies a specific act against a specific target; is readily understandable and leaves little room for misunderstanding the perpetrator's intent). Example: "Thanks to your big mouth, I'll have to use my gun to shut you up!"
- indirect threat (tends to be vague, unclear and ambiguous; does not specify that an act will take place; designed more to intimidate and instill fear). Example: "If I wanted to, I could blast everyone in this office to hell!"
- veiled threat (strongly implies but does not explicitly threaten violence). Example: "You'd better watch your back." conditional threat (warns that an act will happen unless certain demands are met). Example: "If you don't approve my loan, I guarantee you I'll plant a bomb in your office!"
- accessibility to and/or fascination with weapons; bringing and/or brandishing a weapon in the workplace; making intimidating references to weapons;
- statements such as "I don't have to worry about anything. I've got my gun to protect me."
- statements showing identification and/or empathy with perpetrators of workplace violence
- statements indicating that violence can be effective in achieving one's objectives or that it is an acceptable way of resolving a problem statements indicating desperation over work, family (divorce, loss of custody of children, serious illness or death of a loved one), financial or other personal problems (dissolution of an intimate relationship), to the point of talking about or threatening suicide or harm toward others
- alcohol/substance abuse (may increase aggressive behavior and decrease accuracy of perception)
- excessive interest or membership in groups that espouse violence as an acceptable means of achieving an end
- a "loner" with a history of acting out, self-mutilation, substance abuse, or fire-setting
- past violent behavior (for example, throwing objects at persons, assault, etc.); record of arrests for domestic or other types of violence
- and/or history of calls for assistance from law enforcement due to individual's behavior, but victim(s) unwilling to press charges
Note: If you observe or experience any risk factors described above, discuss your concerns with your supervisor or other officials within your management chain. Other options: Employee Assistance Program representative
, FFAS Workplace Violence Prevention Coordinator, Irene Seastrum
(202) 401-0641 or Lolita Roberson
, (202) 401-0629 and/or your union/association representative (if applicable), among others. In emergency situations, where a serious direct or implied physical threat has been made and violence appears imminent or is in progress, first take steps to ensure your personal safety, then call for assistance.
(Note: The above risk factors were compiled from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's publication, "Dealing with Workplace Violence," the Conference Report: Dealing with Violent and Potentially Violent Employees Within Limits of ADA, and other sources.