OSHA Addresses Workplace Violence
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a directive on September 8, 2011 to address procedures on how to respond to workplace violence. Workplace violence currently affects nearly two million people every year, and is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite.
Workplace violence is most prevalent for employees who work with the public, late at night, or in areas with high crime rates. The most susceptible workers are those who interact with the public: delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, and law enforcement. A recent OSHA inspection of a psychiatric hospital cited over 90 offenses of workplace violence between 2008 and 2010. The hospital was fined $6000 for not providing employees with the proper safety measures and training.
The OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, advised that OSHA has “accompanied this directive with a new web page on Preventing Workplace Violence to help employers address workplace violence issues.” Employers who implement safety measures, including training employees on workplace violence, encouraging employees to report assaults or threats, and conducting workplace violence hazard analyses, can reduce the occurrence of workplace violence.
This directive is the first instruction of OSHA officials’ enforcement procedures for investigations and inspections of workplace violence incidents. It provides guidance on whether to conduct an initial investigation and/or cite an employer. If the investigation reveals an employer is not providing means of preventing or minimizing hazards, they may be in violation of the general duty clause and subject to a citation.
For further information on how to prevent workplace violence, please visit the OSHA Preventing Workplace Violence web page.