The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a new a compliance directive: Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence. The purpose of the directive is to establish uniform procedures for OSHA field officers when responding to incidents and complaints of workplace violence. The directive also provides guidelines for conducting inspections in industries the agency deems particularly vulnerable to workplace violence, including healthcare, social service settings and late-night retail establishments. Specifically, the directive “highlights the steps that should be taken in reviewing incidents of workplace violence when considering whether to initiate an inspection in industries that OSHA has identified as susceptible to this hazard.” In conjunction with the directive, OSHA has launched a web page to assist employers in preventing incidents of workplace violence.
The directive explicitly states that it does not require an OSHA response to every complaint or fatality related to workplace violence “or require that citations or notices be issued for every incident inspected or investigated. Instead, it provides general enforcement guidance to be applied in determining whether to make an initial response and/or cite an employer.” Employers that fail to reduce or eliminate “serious recognized hazards” which may include workplace violence may be found in violation of the general duty clause. To that end, OSHA directs field inspectors to “gather evidence to demonstrate whether an employer recognized, either individually or through its industry, the existence of a potential workplace violence hazard affecting his or her employees.” The directive also encourages OSHA investigators to “focus on the availability to employers of feasible means of preventing or minimizing such hazards.”
In workplaces where a potential for violence against employees has been identified, the directive states that employers should be encouraged to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention program. Although OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers should discuss with the employer potential controls for these types of hazards, the directive provides that it is the employer’s responsibility to employ the most effective feasible controls available to protect its employees from acts of workplace violence. The selection of abatement methods should be based on specific hazards identified in a workplace analysis of the facility/place of employment, temporary duty locations and workers’ travel routes while on duty.
Among other documents contained in the directive’s appendix is a list of potential abatement methods for employers in all industries and those with primarily administrative workplaces. The appendix also sets forth more specific recommendations for those employers in the retail industry and those with healthcare and social services facilities. OSHA has previously published guidance documents on workplace violence aimed at late-night retail establishments (pdf) and healthcare and social services industries. (pdf)
Photo credit: Diego Cervo