Workplace violence is a significant problem in today’s businesses. Approximately 750 homicides occur in the workplace each year and more than 2 million Americans are victims of physical attacks at work annually. Along with the disruption to business activities there is a huge emotional toll on the victims and their families. In addition, the potential for liability on the part of the employer is increasing under a number of novel legal theories.
Employer responsibility can be assessed under any or all of the following:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) has issued informational, voluntary guidelines on preventing violence in the workplace. These guidelines are targeted at the healthcare and social service industries. In issuing the guidelines for these industries, TOSHA observed that the workplace violence incident rate for private industry is three cases per 10,000 workers, whereas for healthcare and social service workers the incident rate is 47 cases per 10,000 workers. Although these guidelines are intended for healthcare and social service workers, TOSHA did announce that all employers have a general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards. It is the position of TOSHA that employers can be cited for violating the law under the “general duty” clause if there is a recognized hazard of workplace violence in their establishments and they do nothing to prevent or abate it.
Employers in the healthcare and social service industries should obtain a copy of these guidelines and review them to see if changes need to be made in the workplace. Unfortunately, workplace violence is becoming a weekly incident in the United States when such incidents increase, the public brings pressure on the government for some type of response. If workplace violence occurs, TOSHA may take the position that the employer violated the law if it can show that appropriate steps were not taken to prevent or minimize the harm to employees.
Policies and Forms
Chapter 31: Workplace violence