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Risk/Threat Workplace Violence Assessment

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

Tel. 415.461.4845

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Curriculum Vitae

By Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

The assessment of risk or threat of violence at the workplace or elsewhere is a difficult undertaking at best. During the course of 45 years of psychiatric practice, I have examined approximately 150 murderers to determine whether or not some emotional component might mitigate their actions, the mens rea dimension of guilt. These assessments have provided me with a personal clinical experience for assessing the potential for violence and other anti-social behaviors.

A considerable literature exists on this topic with which I am familiar. I use both actuarial and clinical approaches, and I have been assisted by certain psychological tests in making a determination of level of risk for violence at the workplace or elsewhere. Public agencies I have consulted for include the U.S. Postal Service, Department of Defense, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, various municipalities, and various State agencies such as water boards and transit services. I also have consulted with the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Department of Energy, Department of Treasury, and the U.S. Coast Guard. Numerous private employers also have requested assessments of employees. My best testament is I have performed in excess of 500 such examinations; some of them I assessed a high risk or very high risk rating and those predictions have on occasion proven to be unfortunately accurate. To date, no person I have assessed at a minimal, low, or medium risk ever has acted out in a violent fashion. I am gratified to know that the accuracy of my assessments has in many cases been a useful tool of prevention.

As mentioned in the Fitness for Duty article, the basis for the employer requiring an employee to be evaluated for risk of violence is contained in the OSHA rules where the employer must maintain a safe workplace. If the employer has a reasonable belief an employee may be dangerous, then the employer may have a duty to have that person assessed. I am not a lawyer and cannot offer legal advice, but encourage employers with such concerns to seek legal counsel to learn their legal obligations.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not constitute legal or medical advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel or physician for the most current information and to obtain professional legal advice or medical advice before acting on any of the information presented.

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