OBJECTIVES: Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in Iran experience concerning levels of workplace violence, although until now there has been no investigation of this phenomenon. The objectives of the present study were to describe the exposure of Iranian EMTs to workplace violence and to identify the importance of related factors from their viewpoint. METHODS: In this descriptive, exploratory study, 160 EMTs agreed to participate in a survey that collected data regarding their exposure to the following forms of workplace violence: verbal abuse, physical assault, cultural harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault. RESULTS: A total of 138 questionnaires were returned, representing a response rate of 86%. The majority of participants 75% (n = 103) experienced at least one form of workplace violence in the 12 months before completing the questionnaire. The most frequently reported form of workplace violence was verbal abuse (71%), followed by physical assault (38%) and cultural harassment (9%). Violence resulting in serious injuries was reported by only 4% of participants, with no more than 8% of participants experiencing workplace violence that included the use of weapons. The most reported response to workplace violence was to 'invite the offender to calm down'. Participants took this approach because they believed that 'follow up of workplace violence is ineffectual' (34%), considered the workplace violence as a common in their job (30%), and did not know whom to report workplace violence to (13%). CONCLUSION: Iranian EMTs experience a considerable amount of workplace violence. The present study highlights the recommendation for formal training programmes and clearer protocols about how to manage workplace violence, especially verbal abuse in the Iranian prehospital setting.