employment background screening, workplace violence, criminal, verifications, references

Can Workplace Violence be Prevented with Background Checks?

“No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, because a nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people.” –Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

What is Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”  That can mean anything from verbal threats to physical assaults or even homicide or suicide.  It might involve employees, clients, customers, or even visitors; in fact, workplace violence is currently the 4th leading cause of fatal injuries that occur in the workplace, and is the number one cause of death for women at work.

Nearly 2 million Americans report that they were victims of workplace violence every year.  While no employee, business, or location is immune, there are some risk factors that might increase your chance of being affected by violence in the workplace:

  • Is money exchanged? People employed at jobs in which money is regularly exchanged have a higher risk of being exposed to violence.  Some examples might be convenience store workers, bank tellers, and food delivery drivers.
  • Is alcohol served? People who are drinking often become people who are drunk – and people who are drunk may become unstable, often resulting in violence and harm.
  • Do you work alone? There really is safety in numbers.  People who work alone don’t have anyone to “watch their backs,” so to speak, which might make you a target for those with bad intentions.

While the number and frequency of workplace violence homicides have decreased slightly over the last several years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) reports that the average cost of a workplace homicide is $800,000.  Beyond the dollar amount, though, such incidents also cost employers and their workers in other ways:

  • Decreased morale
  • Perceived decrease in safety
  • Less trust in coworkers
  • Increased levels of stress and/or depression

How Can an Employer Prevent Workplace Violence?

The first – and most cost-effective – way to prevent workplace violence is by hiring well-screened, thoroughly vetted employees.  Prospective employees with histories of violence may go to great lengths to hide that fact from future employers.  Conducting a background screen on all employees, including a criminal records search, checking the sex offender registry, eligibility verifications, and reference checks, can go a long way toward revealing a tendency toward violent behavior in a prospective employee.

Other ways to prevent violence in the workplace include the introduction of a reporting protocol.  That may include a hotline number employees can call if they are concerned about an escalating incident, or a dedicated HR contact who has the authority to take further action.  Either way, workers who are aware of such reporting channels are much more likely to report potential concerns.  Establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward even the appearance of violence at work is also a good practice for employers.  That policy should extend to all workers, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come into contact with personnel.

At The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust, we are committed to providing our clients with the best, most up-to-date and comprehensive information possible, to ensure that they are hiring candidates who will bring added value to their organizations.  If you are unsure of your current policies regarding background screening and workplace violence and would like to get a free evaluation, call us today at 404.963.9862 or contact us online

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.