With these statistics in mind, OSHA is focusing on prevention and response to violence in the workplace. A new directive establishes uniform procedures for OSHA field staff responding to incidents and complaints while a new Web page offers information and materials for employers.
The Web page on Preventing Workplace Violence includes statistics on the extent of violence in the workplace, assessing the hazards in different settings, and materials for developing workplace violence prevention plans for individual work sites.
"Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain work sites," it notes. Those factors include:
- Exchanging money with the public.
- Working with volatile, unstable people.
- Working alone or in isolated areas.
- Providing services and care.
- Working where alcohol is served.
Additional risk factors for violence include the time of day and location, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates. Delivery drivers, health care professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, and law enforcement personnel are also more prone to violent episodes at work.
Establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence is one of the best protections employers can offer their workers, according to OSHA. In addition, such a policy should cover patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.
Employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring by assessing their work sites. A "well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence," according to the agency. "This can be a separate workplace violence prevention program or can be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures."
Employers should make sure employees understand the policy and realize that all claims of workplace violence will be "investigated and remedied promptly." Also, employers in high-risk industries are encouraged to develop additional methods to protect employees.
The web page includes a variety of references that provide guidance to evaluate and control workplace violence.
To better address workplace violence from an agency standpoint, OSHA has issued the first instruction on the enforcement procedures for investigations and inspections. It specifically targets work sites in industries that OSHA has identified as susceptible to violence, such as health care and social service settings and late-night retail establishments.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 30, 2011
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