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Los Angeles

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence poses a serious concern for businesses across all industries. The Bureau of Labor
Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)
, reported that 761 of the 5,333 fatal workplace
injuries that occurred in the United States in 2019 were caused by another person. Unfortunately, fatal
injuries due to violence increased by 11.6 percent to 849 in 2022. As an employer, understanding the
warning signs of potential violence and taking proactive steps to create a safe and secure work
environment for your employees is more important than ever.

Navigating California's new workplace violence law, with its associated deadlines, can be challenging,
but Conn Maciel Carey LLP's Cal/OSHA team is well-equipped to guide employers through the
compliance process. Our team, led by Rachel L. Conn, Chair of our California Practice, offers unparalleled expertise in developing customized workplace violence prevention strategies. With a deep understanding of the legal landscape and extensive experience in crafting prevention plans and
response programs, our attorneys are prepared to help employers meet the requirements of SB 553. As
active members of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, we stay at the forefront of best
practices and emerging trends in workplace violence prevention. Trust Conn Maciel Carey LLP to be
your partner in creating a safer, more compliant workplace

Understanding the Early Warning Signs

Identifying the early warning signs of workplace violence is the first step in preventing potential incidents. While not every situation leads to violence, recognizing these red flags can help businesses take appropriate action and protect their employees. Some common warning signs include:

  • Changes in Behavior:

One of the most prominent early warning signs is a noticeable change in an employee's behavior. This may include sudden outbursts of anger, increased irritability, or a significant shift in their demeanor. 


  • Verbal Threats and Intimidation:

Always take verbal threats seriously, whether direct or veiled. Closely monitor employees who make comments about harming themselves or others, boast about their access to weapons, or engage in intimidating language. Be aware of any threats made against coworkers, supervisors, or the company itself.


  • Fascination with Violence:

Individuals who display an unusual fascination with violence, weapons, or past incidents of workplace violence may be at a higher risk of engaging in harmful behavior. This could include expressing admiration for perpetrators of violent acts or frequently discussing violent themes.


  • Substance Abuse:

Substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs, can contribute to erratic and dangerous behavior in the workplace. Employees struggling with substance abuse could exhibit signs such as frequent absences, decreased productivity, and unpredictable mood swings. Implementing a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy and offering support through employee assistance programs (EAPs) can help. It is important to work with human resource partners in these situations.


  • Persistent Conflicts and Grievances:

Pay attention to employees who consistently conflict with coworkers or express persistent grievances against the company. Unresolved conflicts and a sense of injustice can escalate over time and sometimes lead to violent outbursts. Encourage open communication and provide channels for employees to voice their concerns and constructively resolve disputes.

Assessing Risk Factors

In addition to recognizing individual warning signs, businesses need to assess the overall risk factors that may contribute to workplace violence. These factors can include:

  • Organizational Stressors:

High-stress work environments, excessive workloads, and poor communication can create a breeding ground for conflicts and frustration. Regularly evaluate your company's culture and work to foster a supportive and collaborative atmosphere.

  • Lack of Support Resources:

Employees who feel unsupported or lack access to mental health resources may be more prone to experiencing emotional distress. Be sure your organization provides adequate support systems, such as EAPs.

  • Inadequate Security Measures:

Failing to implement proper security measures, such as access controls, surveillance systems, and emergency response plans, can leave your workplace vulnerable to potential threats. Conduct a thorough security assessment and work with professionals to identify and address any weaknesses in your organization's security infrastructure.

Creating a Prevention Plan

Developing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan is essential for businesses of all sizes. While SB 553 has specific requirements for workplace violence prevention plans, any plan plan should include the following elements:

  • Clear Policies and Procedures:

Establish clear policies and procedures for workplace violence prevention and response. Ensure that all employees are aware of these policies and understand their roles in maintaining a safe work environment.

  •  Employee Training and Awareness:

Regular training programs can help employees recognize the warning signs of potential violence and understand the proper procedures for reporting concerns. Consider conducting workshops that cover conflict resolution, stress management, and bystander intervention techniques. Encourage employees to be proactive in identifying and addressing potential threats.

  • Incident Reporting and Investigation:

Create a streamlined process for employees to report any concerns or incidents related to workplace violence.


  • Threat Assessment and Risk Management: 

Implement a threat assessment protocol to evaluate the severity and credibility of potential threats. This process should involve a multidisciplinary team that includes human resources, legal counsel, security, and mental health professionals (as necessary). Develop risk management strategies tailored to your organization's specific needs and vulnerabilities 

  • Crisis Response and Recovery: 

In the event of a violent incident, having a well-rehearsed crisis response plan can minimize the impact on your employees and business operations. Establish clear evacuation procedures, designate safe areas, and provide training on emergency communication systems. Have a plan in place for providing support and resources to affected employees, including counseling services and trauma-informed care.

Intervention and Support

When warning signs of potential violence are identified, swift and appropriate intervention is crucial. Consider the following steps:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):

Establish EAPs to provide confidential counseling and support services to any employees who might be facing personal or work-related challenges. These programs can help address underlying issues such as stress, mental health concerns, and substance abuse, which may contribute to an increased risk of workplace violence.

  • Management Training:

Equip your managers and supervisors with the skills and knowledge to identify and respond to warning signs of potential violence. Provide training on active listening, empathetic communication, and de-escalation techniques. Encourage managers to foster open and supportive relationships with their team members.

  • Consistent Documentation:

Maintain detailed and accurate records of all reported incidents, interventions, and follow-up and corrective actions. This documentation can be invaluable in identifying patterns, evaluating the effectiveness of your prevention strategies, and protecting your organization from legal liability. Please note that SB 553 has very specific recordkeeping requirements that must be followed..

Best Practices for Documentation of Workplace Violence Incidents

To ensure that your documentation is effective and legally defensible, consider the following best practices:

  • Establish clear protocols for documenting incidents, interventions, and follow-up actions

  • Train employees responsible for documentation on the proper procedures and the importance of accuracy and objectivity

  • Use standardized forms or templates to ensure consistency in documentation across the organization 

  • Store documentation securely and maintain confidentiality in accordance with applicable laws and regulations

  • Regularly review documentation to identify trends, evaluate the effectiveness of prevention efforts, and make necessary improvements. SB 553 has specific requirements for when these records must be reviewed.


Prioritizing comprehensive documentation can help your organization strengthen its workplace violence prevention strategy, demonstrate due diligence, and minimize legal risk.

The Role of Employee Assistance Programs in Workplace Violence Prevention

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are a valuable resource for businesses looking to support their employees' mental health and well-being while mitigating workplace violence risk. EAPs provide confidential counseling and support services to employees facing personal or work-related challenges that may contribute to an increased risk of violent behavior. Some EAPs also provide consultation for managers to help with difficult employee situations.

Benefits of Implementing an EAP

By addressing the personal and professional challenges that may contribute to an increased risk of violent behavior, EAPs play a vital role in fostering a safer and more supportive work environment. Here are 5 key benefits:

  • Early Intervention:

EAPs can help identify and address potential issues before they escalate into violent incidents. By providing employees with a safe and confidential space to discuss their concerns, EAPs can facilitate early intervention and prevent minor issues from becoming more serious problems

  • Stress Management:

Work-related stress is a common factor that can contribute to workplace violence. EAPs offer stress management techniques and coping strategies to help employees better handle the pressures of their jobs and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

  • Mental Health Support:

EAPs connect employees with mental health professionals who can provide the necessary support and treatment to manage these conditions effectively.

  • Conflict Resolution:

: EAPs can assist employees in developing effective communication and conflict resolution skills. By learning how to address disagreements and conflicts constructively, employees can reduce the likelihood of these situations escalating into violent confrontations.

  • Legal and Financial Assistance:

Personal legal and financial problems can be significant stressors that may contribute to an employee's risk of engaging in violent behavior. Many EAPs offer legal and financial consultation services to help employees navigate these challenges and alleviate the associated stress.

Implementing an Effective EAP

To maximize the benefits of an EAP in preventing workplace violence, consider the following best

  • Promote Awareness:

Regularly communicate the availability and benefits of the EAP to all employees. Ensure that they understand the confidential nature of the program and how to access its services.

  • Leadership Buy-In:

Encourage leadership at all levels to actively support and promote the EAP. When employees see that their managers and executives value the program, they are more likely to utilize its services.

  • Comprehensive Services:

Partner with an EAP provider that offers a wide range of services to address the diverse needs of your workforce. This may include counseling, stress management, substance abuse treatment, legal and financial consultation, and more

  • Integration with Other Initiatives:

Integrate the EAP with your workplace violence prevention strategy. Ensure that EAP professionals are included in developing and implementing policies, training programs, and incident response plans.

  • Continuous Evaluation:

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your EAP in addressing employee needs and contributing to a safer work environment. Seek employee feedback and make necessary adjustments to improve the program's impact.

Implementing an effective Employee Assistance Program into your workplace violence prevention efforts will proactively support your employees' well-being, mitigate the risk of violent incidents, and facilitate a more positive and productive work environmen

Legal Considerations and Compliance

When addressing workplace violence, businesses need to fully understand all legal and regulatory requirements. Consider the following:

  • OSHA Compliance:

OSHA's General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment free from recognized hazards. Failure to address the warning signs of workplace violence and take appropriate preventive measures may result in citations and penalties. California Labor Code Section 6401.9 (SB 553): outlines specific requirements for California employers for workplace violence prevention and response. The compliance deadline is July 1, 2024. Non-compliance can subject employers to citations and penalties.

  • Legal Liability:

Employers have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in protecting their employees from foreseeable risks, including workplace violence. Neglecting to respond to warning signs or failing to implement adequate prevention measures can expose your organization to increased workers' compensation claims and potential civil liability.

  • Privacy and Confidentiality:

When conducting investigations or providing support services, it is critical to respect employee privacy rights and maintain confidentiality. Consult with legal counsel to ensure that your policies and procedures comply with relevant privacy laws and state-specific regulations.

  • Discrimination and Retaliation:

Ensure that your workplace violence prevention efforts do not discriminate against any protected classes or engage in retaliatory actions against employees who report concerns. Consistently apply policies and procedures across your organization and provide equal access to support services for all employees

The Role of Leadership

Creating a safe and violence-free workplace requires a strong commitment from leadership at all levels. As a business owner or executive, you can set the tone for your organization by:

  • Prioritizing Employee Well-Being:

Make it clear that your employees' physical and psychological well-being is a top priority. Allocate sufficient resources to support your workplace violence prevention initiatives and lead by example in promoting a culture of respect and non-violence.

  • Encouraging Open Communication:

: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and reporting potential threats without fear of retaliation. Regularly communicate the importance of workplace safety and the available support resources.

  • Investing in Continuous Improvement:

Regularly review and update your workplace violence prevention plan to ensure its effectiveness. Seek feedback from employees, conduct periodic risk assessments, and stay informed about emerging best practices in the field.

Getting Help With Your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

Recognizing the warning signs of workplace violence is a critical step in creating a safe and secure work environment. By understanding the early indicators, implementing comprehensive prevention strategies, and providing timely intervention and support, businesses can proactively address potential threats and protect their most valuable asset – their employees.


At Conn Maciel Carey LLP, we understand the challenges businesses face when addressing workplace violence prevention while maintaining compliance with OSHA regulations and other related laws. Our dedicated attorneys have extensive experience in all facets of workplace safety law at the federal and state levels. We deliver tailored occupational safety and health law services to clients across various industries, developing practical solutions to their unique safety concerns and inquiries.


With the recent enactment of SB 553, California employers face new requirements to establish and maintain comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. At Conn Maciel Carey LLP, our experienced Cal/OSHA attorneys have developed a Turnkey Workplace Violence Prevention Program solution to help employers comply with this complex law. Our service includes a customized written plan, training materials, gap assessment of related policies, and attorney consultation hours. We also offer ad hoc services to meet your organization's specific needs.


The intricate web of OSHA and related regulations and state laws, combined with the risk of multiagency inspections, prolonged investigations, and substantial enforcement actions, can be overwhelming for any organization. When state and local regulations and the obligation to provide regular employee training and ensure compliance with internal policies and OSHA's regulations are factored in, companies can quickly be inundated with safety-related responsibilities.


Don't allow workplace violence concerns, the intricacies of OSHA compliance, and California’s new state law to jeopardize your business. Contact Conn Maciel Carey LLP today to discover more about our comprehensive workplace violence prevention services and how we can assist you in establishing a safer, more compliant workplace. Our knowledgeable attorneys are ready to discuss how we can provide the legal guidance you need to safeguard your employees and business. To schedule a consultation, contact us now

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