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OSHA Updates Its Violence Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its guide for inspectors about what the violations to look for after an incident takes place.

The procedures are intended to help the inspectors to determine how the potential for violence in an employer’s workplace developed and whether the employer violated OSHA regulations.

“OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and federal workplaces,” OSHA says.

OSHA defines workplace violence as an act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior at the work site. This can range from threats and verbal abuse, to physical assault on up to homicide. It can involve employees, clients, customers or visitors.

OSHA says that almost two million American workers report being victims of workplace violence each year, and many more cases go unreported.

The law firm of Seyfarth Shaw notes that citations follow actual instances of violence. “OSHA appears to be unable to gather sufficient facts during an inspection to support a citation in advance of an actual instance of workplace violence,” the firm says, even when citations allege the employer should have addressed the hazard in advance.

Factors impacting a charge include the hazard being recognized along with the fact that it could cause death or serious physical harm; and there was no feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.

OSHA says most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions, and it says one of the best is creating a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence.

Employers should address this in employee handbooks because those are among the first documents requested by an OSHA inspector, the Seyfarth Shaw attorneys warn.

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