A strong workplace violence prevention plan can make employees feel safer and encourage them to report risk factors for violence. Violence prevention plans can also lead to higher morale, lower insurance costs, and a stronger organizational safety culture, according to the National Security Council.

Here’s how to start.

Consider asking for volunteers for a task force to create your plan. Seek input early on from all team members, with an emphasis on those who do your organization’s highest-risk jobs.

Evaluate your workplace for hazards. According to the National Safety Council, factors that can make it more likely that a workplace will experience violence include:


  • Lack of natural surveillance (providing client services in isolated rooms, etc.)
  • Obstructed entry or exit routes
  • Poor lighting in areas like corridors or parking lots
  • Unstable political or social environment
  • High crime rates in an area
  • Working in or near establishments that serve alcohol


  • Acceptance of workplace violence as “part of the job” and/or fear of retaliation
  • Chronic disputes between management and employees
  • Frequent grievances filed by employees; perceptions of injustice or unfairness
  • Chronic dangerous work conditions
  • Frequent injury claims, especially for psychological or occupational stress
  • Understaffing and/or excessive demand for overtime
  • Low employee engagement results, including HR grievances or high conflict


  • Prolonged or irregular shift work
  • Working alone, in isolated locations or a patient or client’s home
  • Public-facing work, especially in service professions
  • Working with people who display volatile or unstable behavior
  • Working with people with a history of violence or alcohol and substance misuse
  • Working in community-based settings like rehabilitation centers/group homes
  • Handling cash and valuables
  • Working where alcohol is served
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services

Assess your workplace for these risk factors and create a plan to mitigate the most significant risks you find. This could mean taking action to make the physical space at your nonprofit safer, like adding lighting, removing obstructions of sight lines, installing panic buttons, holding client meetings in areas within sight and sound of other staff, and clearly marking entrances and exits.

Get employee input on the changes you plan to make. Ask what else you could do to make employees feel safer at work. Follow up on all suggestions to let employees know what you changed, what you didn’t, and why.

Train all employees about workplace violence issues at orientation, along with annual refreshers. Training should describe the types of workplace violence, emphasize the role that all employees play in raising concerns about violence, provide information about de-escalation strategies and how to respond in an emergency, and let employees know how to report workplace violence. Managers and supervisors should receive additional training on how to recognize and respond to the potential signs of workplace violence.

If an employee faces stalking or threats from someone inside or outside the workplace, offer support. Ask the employee what kind of support they need from your team and give them as much of what they ask for as you can.

How to Respond to Workplace Violence 

If workplace violence takes place at your nonprofit, leaders should follow the organization’s emergency and evacuation plans, as well as your guidelines on when to call 911. Follow all organizational procedures on reporting and investigating the incident.

Immediately after an incident, your nonprofit should:

  • Make sure all employees and clients are safe and accounted for. 
  • Provide first aid or get medical attention for anyone who needs it. 
  • Inform employees about what happened and what actions they need to take. 
  • Immediately make counseling services available at no charge to employees for an extended period.  
  • Assess and arrange for longer-term support for individual employees as needed. This might include additional counseling, medical care, financial or legal assistance, and extra time off.
  • Communicate clear expectations to your team members. Every step you take to clearly communicate what work must get done during this time and what can wait will make people feel more comfortable.
  • Create return-to-work plans with employees who need time away from the office to recover. Stay in touch with thoughtful cards, occasional check-ins, and visits as the employee feels comfortable. You want to show care and concern, not create pressure. As the employee’s return approaches, consider any job modifications they may need to come back to work.
  • Consider whether your team needs additional support. Depending on the severity of the incident, your team may need more help to process what happened, like a conversation led by a mental health professional, or a memorial service for a co-worker who died.
  • Reach out to the family members of employees who were severely injured or killed to show your support. 
  • Follow your crisis management plan to communicate with outside parties, like the public, donors, and clients, as needed.