May 1st, 2019 by Pamela Williams at Fisher Phillips
12-Step Plan To Help Navigate OSHA’s Continued Focus On Workplace Violence
Healthcare employees are nearly five times more likely than workers in other fields to be victims of workplace violence, according to federal government statistics. Because of this disparity, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines in 2015 for preventing workplace violence in the healthcare and social services industries. Since that time, the agency has heightened its focus on this area and has issued an increased number of employer citations relating to incidents involving workplace violence.
Interestingly enough, despite OSHA’s emphasis on workplace violence prevention, there is currently no specific OSHA standard addressing such hazards. As a result, the agency enforces employer obligations to prevent workplace violence through the “general duty clause.” This statutory section requires employers to keep their workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
OSHA has cited several healthcare employers for violating the general duty clause after an incident of workplace violence. For example, a Massachusetts psychiatric facility was recently issued citations of more than $200,000 under the general duty clause based on OSHA’s conclusion that it did not provide a place of employment free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, including verbal threats of assault, physical assaults, choking, punches, kicks, human bites, scratches, and/or pulling of hair by patients. While the significant amount of the citation may have been in part due to other factors, including potential issues surrounding prior inspections and resolutions, it indicates the heightened level of scrutiny OSHA is placing on workplace violence in the healthcare industry.
12 Proactive Measures You Can Take To Reduce Workplace Violence Risks
Workplace violence has increased such that concerns regarding prevention must remain at the forefront of the American consciousness. As OSHA continues to focus on workplace violence in the healthcare industry, you should take proactive measures to reduce risk to your employees. While implementing and training employees on a company policy prohibiting workplace violence is a good start, it is only the beginning. You should consider adopting the following 12 additional measures – which have been specifically recommended by OSHA as acceptable abatement of hazards – as part of a lasting commitment to prevent workplace violence.
Although these measures may not provide a surefire panacea for all incidents of workplace violence, they will help you strengthen your workplace violence prevention program. Additionally, by adopting these measures, you will be in a better position if, and when, OSHA ends up enacting a workplace violence standard.
This blog was written by Pamela Williams at Fisher Phillips, which authors our South Carolina Human Resources Manual, Model Policies and Forms for Missouri Employers, Model Policies and Forms for Kansas Employers, and Workplace Safety and Health Compliance Manual. You can find the original article and more Legal Alerts on their website.
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