All federal government organizations are potentially at risk for workplace violence, not just those in high-crime areas or dealing with violent members of the public, according to an agency studying the issue.

That’s because one of the most common threats to federal workers is other federal workers, the Merit Systems Protection Board said in preliminary findings of a recent study.

“The seeds that may spark a violent outburst by an employee may be rooted in a conflict with other employees or supervisors, conflict with customers or conflict outside the workplace such as daily economic or personal pressures,” the board’s report said.

The board launched the study after the release of statistics showing that state and local government establishments experienced higher rates of workplace violence than private-sector establishments.

The MSPB said it undertook the study because the federal government shares many of the factors creating risk for other levels of government, including having locations in high-crime areas, working with violent or unstable persons or guarding valuable goods and properties.

But it said that its initial findings show that the risk of violence is not limited to organizations with such characteristics. “These groups are certainly at risk, but all federal organizations can be affected by workplace violence since one of the most common perpetrators of violence in the federal workplace are federal employees,” the MSPB wrote in its most recent newsletter.

“Our initial findings also indicate that, although most federal employees believe their agencies take sufficient steps to ensure their safety from violence in the workplace, agencies may need to give more attention to preventing violence perpetrated by employees,” the MSPB said.

The most recent major report on violence in the federal workplace was published in 1998 by the Office of Personnel Management. It described warning signs in behaviors such as threats, stalking and intimidation, and advised agencies on security measures, training, dispute resolution and other steps.

The MSPB issues reports on various aspects of federal employment, in addition to hearing appeals of disciplinary actions and other employment disputes.

“Agencies may need to give more attention to preventing violence.”

Merit Systems Protection Board