We receive many questions from Prepare Training® Certified Instructors inquiring about the existence of US laws addressing the prevention and response to workplace violence in business, industry, and other work settings. They often tell us that they wish to reference US laws in establishing the need for CPI’s Prepare Training® program in discussions with organizational leadership.
In addressing this issue, I wish to first note that CPI is an international training organization with multiple levels of expertise in various areas of problematic workplace behavior, including workplace violence. As such, we are not in a position to offer legal or employment advice. None of my statements should be construed as legal or employment advice.
Depending on the specific geographic jurisdiction being researched relative to these kinds of laws in the US, the issue is not addressed very clearly under the laws of most jurisdictions. There are exceptions at some state levels. Additionally, state and federal laws are in place specific to certain types of education, human service, and health and social service programs and facilities.
On a federal level, workplace safety issues in the United States are the responsibility of the US Department of Labor—Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA's role is to assure the safety of American workers by setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards. Federal standards set by OSHA are adapted by many states. Some states set thеіr own standards based on OSHA guidelines. Workers in both the public and private sectors are covered by OSHA regional offices under federal supervision or by an OSHA program operated by their state.
There are currently no specific OSHA mandatory standards addressing workplace violence. However, under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that "is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees."
US courts have interpreted OSHA’s General Duty Clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace that is free of conditions or activities that either the employer or the involved industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. Under some circumstances, this may include workplace violence.
OSHA recently issued its Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents [PDF], which was issued on September 8, 2011 to OSHA national, regional, area/district, sate plan, and state consultation offices that conduct inspections in response to complaints of workplace violence.
More than 3,000 people died from workplace homicide between 2006 and 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, more than 15,000 nonfatal workplace injury cases were reported annually during this same time span.
OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training, can reduce the likeliness of workplace violence.
In conjunction with its directive, OSHA established a Workplace Violence Resource website. If you are a Certified Instructor or have yet to join the CPI family, feel free to explore OSHA resources and a vast variety of other valuable support tools here.