Applicant background checks can’t prevent all workplace violence, but they can red-flag job candidates with violence in their pasts, security consultants say.

The topic never seems far from the headlines. A recent tragedy was the Sept. 20 shooting murder of three workers at a Rite Aid Corp. distribution center in Aberdeen, Md. The shooter, temporary employee Snochia Moseley, also injured three people and then took her own life.

There were 866 workplace fatalities in 2016 due to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as “violence and other injuries by persons or animals,” including 500 homicides. More than one-eighth of...