Incidents of workplace violence create potential liability exposure for employers. Employers may also suffer significant costs resulting from lost productivity. Thus, it is prudent for employers to take preventative steps to minimize the risk of violence in their place of work. This section outlines the various risks of liability presented by workplace violence and various strategies to minimize incidents of workplace violence.
OSHA has not issued any regulations specifically addressing workplace violence. The agency considers workplace violence a hazard and has issued guidelines aimed at reducing workplace violence. OSHA may rely on these guidelines to issue citations for incidents of workplace violence under the General Duty Clause.
The following are some of these OSHA issued guidelines aimed at minimizing violence in the workplace.
OSHA recommends a team-oriented approach incorporating both management and employees into committees aimed at identifying and minimizing risks of violence in the workplace. These committees should consult employees to identify security concerns, report incidents of violence and recognize escalating situations. In addition, OSHA recommends debriefing and medical/psychological counseling for employees involved in violent incidents. OSHA further recommends that employers create a comprehensive written program to address workplace violence. Such a program should include a zero-tolerance policy for violence and threats, a no-retaliation policy, a procedure for reporting and documenting incidents and security procedures.
OSHA recommends that employers undertake a thorough analysis of the risks of violence in their place of work. Suggested steps include analyzing prior incidents of violence, contacting other employers within the industry, surveying employees and conducting physical inspections of the premises. When conducting this type of analysis, employers should keep the following in mind: employers who choose to perform a worksite analysis may expose themselves to potential liability when information obtained through a worksite analysis is not acted upon by the employer.
Once hazards are identified, OSHA suggests that employers implement mechanisms to prevent and control workplace incidents. Specific hazard prevention and control mechanisms include the installation of alarms and other security devices, as well as administrative procedures for responding to incidents. Employers should implement both immediate response procedures - to cool-off escalating situations carefully - and long-term response procedures consisting of discipline and investigation.
OSHA recommends that employers educate workers to the risks of workplace violence and the specific policies and procedures in place to minimize these risks.
Employers should maintain records of incidents of violence and compliance with violence reduction programs for five years from the calendar date to which these records relate.
Although OSHA has not issued regulations dealing specifically with workplace violence, some groups have urged the agency to create such regulations. Therefore, OSHA may issue regulations specifically dealing with workplace violence in the near future.
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