OSHA to Publish Specific Rules for Preventing Workplace Violence

May 22, 2019

There are four types of workplace violence. You should know the four ways to mitigate it.

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH Act) has traditionally invoked the General Duty Clause, rather than any specific rules, to address workplace violence. It requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the OSH Act. Employers who do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate a recognized violence hazard in the workplace can be cited.

However, legislators on the House Education and Labor Committee are working to promulgate specific rules for preventing workplace violence in the healthcare sector, since it is particularly prone to workplace violence. On May 1, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta appeared before the Committee and faced questions from lawmakers.

It’s unknown whether OSHA will promulgate similar specific rules for other sectors of the economy that are also highly prone to workplace violence. But any rules from OSHA will likely be based on the four types of workplace violence and set forth some basic steps for mitigating workplace violence.

Four types of workplace violence

1.   Criminal intent. “The perpetrator has no legitimate relationship to the business or its employees and is usually committing a crime in conjunction with the violence. These crimes can include robbery, shoplifting, trespassing and terrorism. The vast majority of workplace homicides (85 percent of them) fall into this category,” according to Dr. Di Ann Sanchez, in her introduction to The SHRM Workplace Violence Survey.

2.   Customer or client. “The perpetrator has a legitimate relationship with the business and becomes violent while being served by the business.” Sanchez explained. This category includes customers, clients, patients, students, inmates and any other group for which the business provides services. It is believed that a large portion of customer/client incidents occur in the health care industry in settings such as nursing homes or psychiatric facilities; the victims are often patient caregivers. Police officers, flight attendants and teachers are other examples of workers who may be exposed to this kind of workplace violence, which accounts for approximately 3 percent of all workplace homicides.

3.   Worker-on-worker. The perpetrator is an employee or past employee who attacks or threatens another employee(s) or past employee(s) in the workplace. Worker-on-worker fatalities account for approximately 7 percent of all workplace homicides.

4.   Personal relationship. The perpetrator usually does not have a relationship with the business but has a personal relationship with the intended victim. This category includes victims of domestic violence assaulted or threatened while at work and accounts for about 5 percent of all workplace homicides.


Steps to mitigate workplace violence

1.   Create policies that protect workers.

Outline what is and what is not acceptable behavior. The most common factors to address should include bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol use and following safety procedures. Be sure everyone in the organization understands and agrees to follow the policies.

2.   Improve Systems and Physical Premises

Implement security measures, such as cameras and data security, as well as improved lighting. Enable workers with technology that connects them to signal alerts to authorities and your community.

3.   Limit Access to Non-Employees.

Typical tools include:

• ID cards for employees and visitors

• Sign-in desk

• Access-card entry systems

• Video surveillance (inside and outside)

• Security guards who patrol the buildings and grounds

• Metal detectors at building entry points

• Uber/Lyft reimbursement for employees who normally walk or bike to work but have to work late

4.   Train and Communicate.

Train employees to be aware of factors that could jeopardize security. To reduce tension in the workplace, encourage employees to communicate with each other regularly and be open-minded about fellow workers. Implement an employee notification system to make employees aware of any potentially dangerous situations.

For risk management advice and help planning your anti-violence workplace policy, please contact us.