Directive Addresses Workplace Violence

09.22.2011
HR & Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a directive setting uniform procedures for agency field staff who respond to complaints of workplace violence and conduct inspections in vulnerable industries, such as healthcare and social service settings and late-night retail establishments.

According to OSHA, violence ranks among the top four causes of death in workplaces during the past 15 years. More than 3,000 people died from workplace homicides between 2006 and 2010, while an average of more than 15,000 nonfatal workplace injury cases was reported.

A recent OSHA inspection of a Maine hospital found more than 90 instances in which workers were assaulted on the job by patients from 2008 through 2010. The hospital was cited for not providing its workers with adequate safeguards against violence and a $6,000 fine was proposed. OSHA has also cited facilities in New York and Massachusetts where employees have been killed as a result of assaults.

These incidents and others like them can be avoided or decreased if employers take appropriate precautions, says OSHA. Measures include training employees on workplace violence, encouraging employees to report assaults or threats, and conducting workplace violence hazard analyses. Other steps such as using entrance door detectors or buzzer systems in retail establishments and providing alarms and employee “safe” rooms can help minimize risks.

The agency has accompanied the directive with a new web page to help employers address workplace violence issues. For more information: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/index.html

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