As part of a new enforcement initiative, OSHA will give more attention to investigating incidents of workplace violence. Under federal and state law, employers have a duty to guard against this hazard. OSHA’s new Enforcement Weighting Initiative gives its area offices more credit for performing time-consuming inspections. One type that definitely takes more time: those involving workplace violence.
Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths.
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors.
While federal OSHA doesn’t have a specific standard, it issues violations for workplace violence under the General Duty Clause. OSHA has issued a directive to its inspectors, Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence. The directive recognizes four categories of workplace violence:
1. Criminal intent: These are violent acts by people who enter a workplace to commit a crime, with the primary motive usually being robbery. This is the most common source of worker homicide: 70%.
2. Customers and clients: These incidents are directed at employees by people who have a legitimate reason to be in the workplace, including patients and visitors. A larger proportion of customer/client incidents occur in the industry, in settings including hospitals, nursing homes and psychiatric facilities.
3. Worker on worker: This is violence against a worker by a current or former employee. About 11% of workplace homicides are committed by current or former employees of the workplace where the incident takes place.
4. Personal relationships: This is violence in the workplace by a non-employee who has a relationship with an employee. Type IV victims are overwhelmingly female. About 27% of all violent events in a workplace are tied to domestic violence.
Type II violence is divided into two categories:
1. Inherently violent situations or settings, such as those involving prison inmates, mental-health service recipients or other unstable clients.
2. Situational violence is when something causes an otherwise nonviolent client or customer to become violent. Examples can include denial of or delay in receiving services.
Type III violence is also divided into two sub-types:
1. Vertical violence: involves people on different levels of the hierarchical system (ex.: superior and subordinate).
2. Horizontal (lateral) violence: an act of aggression among peers characterized by a series of undermining incidents over time that create a toxic environment. This aggression is designed to control, diminish or devalue a peer.
Among the abatement strategies included in the OSHA document: Conduct a workplace violence hazard analysis. When new construction or physical changes to the workplace are planned, assess how changes could impact security hazards. Is there an opportunity to reduce workplace violence hazards? Provide training to employees about workplace violence. Implement engineering controls such as alarm systems, metal detectors, closed-circuit video recording and bright lighting. Implement administrative controls such as establishing relationships with local police; requiring employees to report all assaults or threats; and advising employees of company procedures for dealing with assaults. Respond promptly to all complaints regarding employee conflict and violence. Use properly trained security guards to deal with aggressive behavior.
Develop a written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program that includes a non-tolerance statement regarding violence in the workplace; results of a hazard assessment; a recordkeeping system; a workplace violence training program; an annual review of the program; procedures in the event of a violence incident; and development of a response team. Employer liability With the number of workplace violence threats that come from the outside, how might an employer be held liable?
P bar Y Safety says there are a number of legal scenarios: Responsibility for someone the company has hired: An employer is liable for harm done by an employee within the scope of employment, whether the act was accidental, reckless or intentional. This can come in the form of negligent hiring or negligent retention when an employer keeps an employee after learning the worker poses a potential danger.
Negligent security: This is usually raised by employees who suffered criminal attacks in the workplace.
Negligent failure to warn: When the hazards of employment include a danger known to the employer, the company may have a duty under state or federal law to warn the employee