Industry Definitions of Workplace Violence



The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a simple system for categorizing workplace violence into four types:
  • Type 1: Violent acts by criminals who have no other connection with the workplace but enter to commit a robbery or another crime.
  • Type 2: Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or any others from 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; this can be an abusive spouse or domestic partner.

Ontario’s Health & Safety Act (OHSA) defines workplace violence as:
  • The exercise of physical force by a person against a worker, in a workplace, that causes or could cause physical injury to the worker.
  • An attempt to exercise physical force against a worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.
  • A statement or behaviour that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.  
OHSA defines workplace harassment as:
  • Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.
Workplace harassment may include bullying, intimidating or offensive jokes or innuendos, displaying or circulating offensive pictures or materials, or offensive or intimidating phone calls.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines workplace violence as: Any action, incident, or behavior that departs from reasonable conduct in which a person is assaulted, threatened, harmed, injured in the course of, or as a direct result of, his or her work.
  • Internal workplace violence is that which takes place between workers, including managers and supervisors.
  • External workplace violence is that which takes place between workers (and managers and supervisors) and any other person present at the workplace.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) defines workplace violence as: Any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment. Workplace violence includes:
  • Threatening behaviour - such as shaking fists, destroying property or throwing objects.
  • Verbal or written threats - any expression of an intent to inflict harm.
  • Harassment - any behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms or verbally abuses a person and that is known or would be expected to be unwelcome. This includes words, gestures, intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities.
  • Verbal abuse - swearing, insults or condescending language.
  • Physical attacks - hitting, shoving, pushing or kicking.
Rumours, swearing, verbal abuse, pranks, arguments, property damage, vandalism, sabotage, pushing, theft, physical assaults, psychological trauma, anger-related incidents, rape, arson and murder are all examples of workplace violence.
Workplace violence is not limited to incidents that occur within a traditional workplace. Work-related violence can occur at off-site business-related functions (conferences, trade shows), at social events related to work, in clients' homes, or away from work but resulting from work (a threatening telephone call to your home from a client).