Workplace violence claims have been on the rise across the country. While some incidents are caused by outside parties, not all are. If an employee is injured during an act of workplace violence, it typically falls within the scope of workers’ compensation. However, what if your employee is the one responsible for the act of violence? This is where staffing agencies could be liable for their employee’s actions.

As the employer, staffing agencies can be held responsible for the behavior of their employees. There are no exceptions when it comes to workplace violence. Staffing agencies have exposure for harm caused by their employees to third parties, including visitors to their office/branch, visitors to host worksites, or the employees of the host employer. While staffing agencies can obtain workplace violence insurance coverage to protect themselves from the financial impact of these claims, there are also important steps they can take to prevent these claims from occurring or reduce the likelihood of injury or death if they do occur.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines workplace violence as “the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty.” Therefore, staffing agencies have a responsibility to ensure job applicants are properly and thoroughly evaluated using background checks and reference verification. Background checks can help agencies identify potential issues before they become problems.

On the jobsite, there are a few best practices staffing agencies can do to assess for workplace violence. Three recommended screenings are environmental, administrative, and behavioral. It is important to consider the following typical situations when determining if there are adequate controls in place:


  • Entries/Exits – Ensure there are adequate routes of escape, controlled entry to prevent unauthorized access, and security measures such as security guards or alike.
  • Work Area Hazards – Implement controls to prevent access to weapons of opportunity control.
  • Workplace Design – Install a worker alert system (alarms/protocols), door locks, and lockers.
  • Security Measure – Post emergency phone numbers, provide worker access to phones, and install security cameras.


  • Policies Related to Workplace Violence – Establish a written program with zero tolerance, provide training on how to respond in the event of violence, and establish a communication process for reporting potential violent episodes.
  • Staffing – Ensure there are an adequate number of workers in each work units (more than 2) to promote safety.
  • Work Routines and Resources – Implement a system for limited equipment/resources to minimize potential conflicts.


  • Staff Knowledge – Inform workers about any previous violence in the work unit.
  • Staff Skills – Ensure workers are trained on how to respond to violence, how to de-escalate potential violent situation, and follow an emergency response plan.
  • Staff Professional Behavior – Ensure workers are trained to mediate conflict between co-workers and promote respectful treatment.

By implementing these strategies, staffing agencies can proactively address workplace violence and create a safer work environment for their employees and third parties. For more information, please contact Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) safety consultant or advisor.

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