Pulling Together to Manage a Workplace Violence Program

Jenny Schmitz, MA, MEP, Co-CEM, HEM

There are so many parts to creating a workplace-violence program. In December 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published “Preventing Workplace Violence: A Road Map for Health-care Facilities” as a guide.1 Not only does the road map outline the process for creating a program, but it also offers realworld examples from health-care facilities across the country that have created and implemented different processes to address workplace violence.


OSHA has identified five core elements to be included in a workplace-violence program:

1. Management Commitment and Employee Engagement

The success of any program begins with management commitment and employee engagement. In a 2011 survey conducted by the Emergency Nurses Association, only 16% of nurses surveyed reported that hospital administration was “completely committed” to eliminating workplace violence against emergency nurses.2 In the same survey, physicians were reported as “completely committed” by 35% of nurses, Emergency Department management staff by 40%, and nurses themselves by 55%.3Management commitment can be the motivating force that proves that employee emotional and physical safety is a priority, and that addresses workplaceviolence issues. With management commitment and engagement, policies can be reviewed, implemented, and enforced—and it’s an organization’s management that can allocate funding to support efforts (security systems, staff training, etc.). Just as strong management is needed, the workplace-violence committee will not be effective without the voice of the employee. It is important to include employees from various departments across the organization, and to encourage open participation. Include employees in policy revisions, and let them be the cheerleaders of the committee with their peers. Successful employee engagement will increase compliance with the program and encourage prompt reporting of violent incidents.

2. Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification

Identifying hazards and assessing the workplace should be a constant process. Initial assessments should be reevaluated regularly. Use a varying group of people to conduct these assessments, in order to get different perspectives on the assessment. Collect data, look at security reports, conduct hazards assessments of every workspace, and talk to employees to get their input. When violent events happen, review them and learn from them.

3. Hazard Prevention and Control

Once the hazards are identified, they need to be prioritized and addressed. Allocate funding to address the more severe hazards, and look for creative and cost-effective ways to address the others. Implement new processes, and document your decisions.

4. Safety and Health Training

Ensure that all employees have education or training regarding workplace violence, because all of them are at risk of at least one of the four types of workplace violence. Training can include online education, verbal de-escalation training, and what to do if an employee is the victim of a violent event. Consider a tiered training program, involving some lessons for all employees and others for those in “high-risk” areas. Add workplace violence to the mandatory training program, and reach out to other hospitals and contact experts to assist with the program.

5. Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation

Data on injuries, illnesses, accidents, assaults, training programs, corrective actions, and hazard assessments will help you identify gaps, understand the severity of workplace violence, and identify trends in its occurrence. This will help you identify and target your biggest risk areas. And just as with other committees and programs, evaluate your workplace-violence program. Identify your success and keep looking for area to improve. Document your findings, and share them with your organization’s employees and management.


It’s a common sentiment—but a Workplace-Violence Committee is the most common way to coordinate all the moving parts that make up a successful workplace violence program. You can address all five of the program’s core elements within the committee, and the committee can keep the progress on track.

As with any committee, you must have a strong chair. The chair could be someone from management, or an employee—or perhaps a co-chair model would work for your organization. In addition to management and employee representatives, other key participants in the committee commonly include personnel from human resources and risk management, safety specialists, security officers, nurses, physicians, and pharmacists. Your organization can always adjust participation as needed, but be sure to select committee members who will be champions of the committee, broadcasting the committee’s work to the whole organization.

As you create your committee, you may find that some of the core elements of your workplace-violence program are already covered by other committees (risk assessment, injury review, safety training, and data collection, for example). In this case, don’t reinvent the wheel—have members of the other committees share their information with the workplaceviolence committee. Use your committee meetings to set goals, report data and trends, review policies, monitor staff training, and prioritize expenditures.


Creating a committee and managing a workplace-violence program takes work. It also takes commitment from the highest levels in each organization to dedicate employee time and support the actions of the workplace-violence committee. If your organization is ready, take the leap: understand the components of a successful program, and endeavor to improve the safety of all of your employees. 


1 “Preventing Workplace Violence: A Road Map for Healthcare Facilities.” OSHA, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2016.  

2 “Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study.” Emergency Nurses Association, November 2011. Accessed
   April 14, 2016. P. 31.

3 Ibid.