OSHA Updates its Guidelines for Protecting Workers from Workplace Violence

Healthcare and social service workers face significant risks of job-related violence and it is OSHA’s stated mission to help employers address these serious hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 23,000 significant injuries due to assault at work occurred in 2013. Notably, more than 70 percent of these assaults were in the healthcare and social service sectors. Workers in these areas are reportedly more than 4 times as likely to be injured due to violence in the workplace than the average private sector worker.

In order to address the issue of workplace violence, OSHA recently released an update to its 2004 Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers. According to this document, a written program for workplace violence prevention, incorporated into an organization’s overall safety and health program, offers an effective approach to reduce or eliminate the risk of violence in the workplace. An effective workplace violence prevention program includes:

(1) Management commitment and employee participation;

(2) Worksite analysis;

(3) Hazard prevention and control;

(4) Safety and health training; and

(5) Recordkeeping and program evaluation.

OSHA believes that a violence prevention program should have clear goals and objectives, be suitable for the size and complexity of the employer’s operations, and be adaptable to specific situations and specific facilities or units. As with any occupational program, it should be evaluated and reassessed on a regular basis.

A word of caution to those developing workplace violence prevention programs, please be sure to check for applicable state requirements. Several states have passed legislation and developed requirements that address workplace violence. For more information on violence prevention in workplace settings, please go to OSHA’s Workplace Violence Web page.

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