Workplace Violence: Are You at Risk? OSHA May Think So

November 17, 2014
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

In 2011 OSHA reemphasized workplace violence as an issue employers should be concerned with, by issuing a compliance directive that outlines enforcement procedures regarding workplace violence for OSHA field officers. While the directive does not require OSHA to respond to every complaint or incident related to workplace violence, it does provide guidance for their field officers in determining whether to pursue an investigation or whether a citation is warranted.

There have been a couple of recent cases where employers were cited with willful violation for failing to protect workers. In one case the inspection results found that a company with increasingly frequent incidents of workplace violence (quadrupling in a two-year period) still failed to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention program.

While OSHA does not have any specific standards for workplace violence, under the General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” That being said, OSHA does state that if an employer “has experienced acts of workplace violence, or becomes aware of threats, intimidation or other indicators showing that the potential for violence in the workplace exists,” they would then be aware or on notice of the risk and “should implement a workplace violence prevention program” that includes training, administrative, and engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Who’s at risk? Are you?

According to OSHA, if you do any of the following, you’re at risk for workplace violence:

  • Work with the public
  • Work alone
  • Work late-night or early-morning hours
  • Exchange cash
  • Deliver passengers, goods, or services
  • Work near alcohol
  • Work in high-crime areas

Take a look at the list—do you have one of the factors? What about two or more? The more factors you have, the more at risk you are for workplace violence to occur.

What can you do about it?

Let’s focus on your workplace violence prevention program and training. First and foremost, does your organization have policies and procedures that address workplace violence? I know this seems like an obvious question to some, but there are still many organizations in a variety of industries from higher education to manufacturing to government to private sector that do not have a plan defining or addressing how to handle incidents of workplace violence, threats, intimidation, or harassment. Your program starts with solid policies and procedures; from there, you can build training awareness to the issue of workplace violence.

Next, do you have a training program in place? The best workplace violence prevention training programs encompass a broad definition of workplace violence and train on appropriate responses to the behaviors identified. The reason you want to expand your definition of violence is because low-level behaviors such as incivility and disrespect can quickly escalate into intimidation/threats, bullying/harassment, retaliation and verbal assault, and the worst-case scenario is physical assault with or without a weapon.

CPI training programs enable participants to not only recognize these behaviors but train them on responses proven to assist in de-escalating a situation and mitigating the risk of violence. We approach workplace violence from a holistic standpoint in our training, including what potentially violent behavior looks like, how to respond, and how body language, personal space, and vocal qualities all play a role in signaling potential violence. These considerations are just as important as knowing how to de-escalate situations when they do occur. Customers say that the reason they love our programs is that they’re easy to use, quick to recall in time of need, and applicable across all facets of life, from work to home to community.

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