Work-Related Violence in Washington State

Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) — Research for Safe Work

Workplace violence has received increasing attention in recent years. Although the media tend to focus on dramatic events, like homicides by former employees or co-workers, public health research shows that assaults on caregivers are far more common. The perpetrators of the violent acts are frequently under the victim's care: as either patients or recipients of social services.

SHARP recently updated its analysis of work-related violence in Washington State. Data for 2000 through 2005 were collected from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the Federal government's Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

The objectives of this workplace violence study are to:

  • Identify high risk occupations and industries.
  • Compare Washington State to the nation as a whole.
  • Describe recent trends in workplace violence.
  • Identify opportunities for workplace violence prevention.

Results from analysis

Our analysis shows:

  • Homicide was the fifth leading cause of workplace deaths in Washington State, an average of six such cases per year. There was a marked decline in the number of homicides during the study period.
  • There was an annual average of 2,094 workers' compensation claims related to violence, or about 12 claims per 10,000 full time workers.
  • The number of violence-related claims for the period 2000-2005 was approximately 12 percent lower than that for the period 1995-2000.
  • Health Care and Social Assistance is the highest risk major industry. Although violence-related claims rates fell by 35 percent during the study period, the claims rate in this industry is about five times higher than for all industries combined.
  • Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals saw an increase of over 81 percent in their violence-related claims rates during the study period. In contrast, violence-related claims rates in other Health Care and Social Assistance industries fell throughout the study period (see chart below).
  • Health- and social service-related occupations accounted for approximately one-half of all violence-related claims over the study period. Nurses' aides and orderlies, police officers, health aides, psychiatric aides, social workers and private security guards had the highest number of violence-related claims.
A line chart of violence-related claims rates for high risk state fund industries. A link to the text description of this chart follows.

See the text description of this chart.


These strategies can reduce the risk factors for work-related violence:

  • Hazard assessment.
  • Maintaining adequate staffing levels.
  • Environmental (building layout) controls.
  • De-escalation training.

The following resources provide strategies developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and by L&I:

  • "Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals": National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2002. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-101.
  • "Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies and Resource Needs": National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2006. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2006-144.
  • "Workplace Violence Awareness and Prevention for Employers and Employees": State of Washington, Department of Labor & Industries. 1997.
  • Violence in Washington Workplaces, 2000-2005 (17 KB PDF) (executive summary). Contact SHARP to receive a copy of the full technical report.

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