Pharmacy » Workplace Violence


Workplace violence occurs in healthcare settings almost four times as often as in private industry overall (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Although anyone working in a hospital may become a victim of violence, pharmacists are at higher risk due to the availability of drugs and money in the pharmacy area, which makes pharmacists possible robbery targets.

The effects of violence can range in intensity and include minor or serious physical injuries, temporary or permanent physical disability, psychological trauma, and even death.

The individual risk factors for violence vary from hospital to hospital depending on factors such as location, size, and type of care provided. Some common risk factors for hospital violence include the following:

  • Working directly with patients or visitors who have a history of violence, abuse drugs or alcohol, and/or have access to firearms, knives, or other weapons;
  • Working when understaffed;
  • Long waits for service;
  • Working alone;
  • Poor environmental design;
  • Inadequate security;
  • Lack of staff training and policies for preventing and managing crises with potentially volatile patients;
  • Unrestricted movement of the public; and
  • Poorly lit corridors, rooms, parking lots, and other areas.

Recognized Controls and Work Practices

  • Establishing a Workplace Violence Prevention program to address the risk of violent patients and that includes the following elements:
    • Management Commitment to the Workplace Violence Prevention Program
    • Employee Participation
    • Worksite Analysis
    • Hazard Prevention and Control
    • Safety and Health Training
    • Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation
  • Training staff to recognize and de-escalate potentially violent situations and patients, to be alert for potential violence and suspicious behavior and report it, and to provide intervention measures including verbal, social, physical, and pharmacological interventions where feasible.
  • Providing adequate staffing levels on each shift.
  • Implementing engineering controls, such as:
    • Bolting down furniture
    • Installing plexiglass in the payment window in the pharmacy area.
    • Installing and maintaining improved lighting and video surveillance in the pharmacy area.
    • Implementing security devices such as panic buttons, beepers, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, two-way mirrors, card-key access systems, and security guards.

OSHA emphasizes that the controls discussed here do not represent the full array of controls that would comprise an effective Violence Prevention Program. For more information, please see Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers. OSHA Publication 3148, (2016) and other documents referenced below.

Additional Information