As the attention to the issues has grown, occupational safety specialists and other analysts have broadly agreed that responding to workplace violence requires attention to more than just an actual physical attack. Homicide and other physical assaults are on a continuum that also include

domestic violence, stalking, threats, harassment, bullying, emotional abuse, intimidation, and other forms of conduct that create anxiety, fear, and a climate of distrust in the workplace.

All are part of the workplace violence problem.

Prevention programs that do not consider harassment in all forms and threats are unlikely to be effective. While agreeing on that broader definition of the problem, specialists have also come to a consensus that workplace violence falls into four broad categories. They are:

TYPE 1: Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace, but enter to commit robbery or another crime.

TYPE 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others for whom an organization provides services.

TYPE 3: Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a present or former employee.

TYPE 4: Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee – an abusive spouse or domestic partner.

Type 1, violence by criminals otherwise unconnected to the workplace accounts for the vast majority – nearly 80 percent – of workplace homicides. In these incidents, the motive is usually theft, and in a great many cases, the criminal is carrying a gun or other weapon, increasing the likelihood that the victim will be killed or seriously wounded.

This type of violence falls heavily on particular occupational groups whose jobs make them vulnerable: taxi drivers (the job carries by far the highest risk of being murdered). late-night retail or gas station clerks, and others who are on duty at night, who work in isolated locations or dangerous neighborhoods, and who carry or have access to cash.

Preventive strategies for Type 1 include an emphasis on physical security measures, special employer policies, and employee training. In fact, it is suggested that one of the reasons for the decline in workplace homicides since the early 1990s is due to the security measures put in place by businesses that may be vulnerable to this type of activity.

Because the outside criminal has no other contact with the workplace, the interpersonal aspects of violence prevention that apply to the other three categories are normally not relevant to Type 1 incidents. The response after a crime has occurred will involve conventional law enforcement procedures for investigating, finding, and arresting the suspect, and collecting evidence for prosecution.

For that reason, even though Type 1 events represent a large share of workplace violence (homicides in particular) and should in no way be minimized, the rest of this paper will focus mainly on the remaining types.