OSHA’s new enforcement Initiative against Workplace Violence is designed to examine how employers respond, monitor and resolve at risk situation in preventing violence. Could your company withstand the impact of an OSHA inquiry? How prepared are you in coping with the threat of employee and non-employee violence?
According to the latest statistics, an astounding two million workers in America are victims of some form of violence at work each year, and violence at work now ranks among the top four causes of worker deaths. As reported in 2010, 18% of U.S. workplace fatalities were the result of violence related to the workplace. Compare that to 14% of U.S. fatalities caused by falls. Of alarm is that the number of incidents involving multiple fatalities by the lone gunman has increased. This is a concern associated with School Violence, Domestic and Partner Violence and Armed Robbery that should be addressed in your violence response plans and training. The Department of Homeland Security has recently issued some instructions on preparing for and responding to the threat of violence by a hostile intruder.
The first six months of 2012 has already shown us that the threat of homicidal violence has no boundaries; a family dispute in a family owned SPA in Georgia, a domestic violence matter in a Beauty Salon in California, a disgruntled current employee in a Lumber Company in North Carolina, a disgruntled person in a Office Building in Ohio, a disciplinary issue in a Rehab Hospital in CT, a severance pay issue in VT and a performance evaluation involving federal agents at a federal office building. This June a young Soldier killed his Commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina proving that false assumptions contribute to poor prevention and response plans. No employer is immune from the threat of violence.
What are your capabilities? What is your violence response plan? Are your efforts a joint human resource – security collaboration or believe your culture more than adequately averts such potential disaster?
In an effort to address the increasing number of workplace related deaths due to incidence of violence in general, and to protect workers from preventable incidents of violence at work, OSHA has identified several industries and businesses with a high potential for people violence. Such businesses include those where workers exchange money with the public, workers who work at night, and health care and social workers who deliver services to the public. These categories are pretty self-explanatory.
What does your workplace violence prevention efforts look like?
Are you coordinating your effort or leaving it to chance that it won’t ever happen at your workplace?
In accordance with the new directive, OSHA plans to conduct inspections of these businesses to determine whether employers are taking sufficient preventive steps to reduce the risk of worker violence in minimizing risk. Under the new ruling, OSHA will entertain anonymous file complaints against employers who fail to provide for safe and secure workplaces. To address and prevent potential incidents of workplace violence, OSHA recommends that employers that the following actions:
- regularly conduct hazard analyses,
- implement engineering controls (e.g., alarm systems, metal detectors, closed -circuit video recording, lighting, etc.),
- enforce policies that require employees to use proper personal protective equipment in appropriate circumstances, and;·
- establish written programs to protect employees from workplace violence.
Under the new OSHA Directive on Workplace Violence employers will be cited if they do not take precautionary steps to protect their employees from the potential harm of workplace violence or when known correctable hazards have not been resolved. As such, all employers should evaluate their own potential for workplace violence and consider the feasibility of the following preventive steps:
- create and communicate a written policy on workplace violence and procedures to be followed in response to a violence incident,
- complete a workplace hazard assessment and security analysis,
- create a complaint mechanism for reporting threats or concerns of violence, and,
- develop a response team for immediate care of victims of workplace violence.
- develop appropriate training, and;
- develop new employee orientations on workplace violence prevention.
To insure your organization can pass any OSHA Inspection and to resolve any doubts of your current posture and capabilities, I recommend you begin an internal review process your workplace settings. Conduct a security assessment and seek input from employees in your various settings. Having the value of a critical review of your internal capabilities allows you to form your workplace violence prevention implementation plan around known hazards, security gaps, prevention measures and training. Do it NOW when you are in control.