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OSHA Issues Workplace Violence Guidance

On September 8, 2011, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a directive establishing procedures for OSHA inspectors to follow when investigating workplace violence incidents.  The “Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence” highlights the steps that investigators should take in reviewing incidents of workplace violence when considering whether to initiate an inspection in industries that OSHA has identified as susceptible to this hazard.

The guidance identifies industries that OSHA considers high risk for workplace violence.  Those industries include health care and social service settings and late night retail establishments.  Although OSHA does not have enforcement authority specific to workplace violence risks, OSHA can issue citations to employers for violations of the “General Duty Clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to keep their employees safe from “recognized hazards.”  With that in mind, employers in high risk industries, those with a history of workplace violence, or those with known threats of violence in the workplace should pay careful attention to this new OSHA directive.

The OSHA directive contains instructions for OSHA inspectors examining workplaces.  It also contains recommendations for employers. General recommendations for all employers, regardless of industry or risk factors, are:

  • Conduct a workplace violence hazard analysis (this includes analyzing vehicles used to transport clients)
  • Assess any plans for new construction or physical changes to the facility or workplace to eliminate or reduce security hazards
  • Provide employees with training on workplace violence
  • Implement engineering controls, such as installing and regularly maintaining alarm systems and other security devices, panic buttons, hand-held alarms or noise devices, cellular phones and private channel radios, where risk is apparent or may be anticipated
  • Implement administrative controls, such as changing work practices and management policies in order to reduce exposure to hazards, including establishing liaisons with local police and state prosecutors, reporting all incidents of violence, and giving police physical layouts of facilities to expedite investigations
  • Develop a written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program

All employers should consider implementing these recommendations, regardless of whether they are in a high risk industry. Employers in high risk industries should consider more significant measures to assess and mitigate workplace violence risks because this is an area of emphasis for OSHA in future inspections.
 

 

© 2022 Poyner Spruill LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume I, Number 356
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About this Author

Kevin M. Ceglowski, Employment and Labor Lawyer, Poyner Spruill, Law Firm
Partner

Kevin represents employers in many areas of labor and employment law, including race, age, gender, religion, national original, and disability employment discrimination claims, wrongful discharge claims, and wage and hour claims. He defends clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, and the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, in state and federal courts, and in arbitrations. Kevin also provides guidance to management to ensure employment practices are in full compliance with all...

919-783-2853
David L. Woodard, Employment Litigation Attorney, Poyner Spruill, Law firm
Partner

David practices in the area of employment litigation.  He regularly advises and defends clients in race, age, disability and sex discrimination and harassment cases; reviews handbooks and termination issues; and provides compliance advice on matters of employment law.

Representative Experience

McNeil v. Scotland County - Obtained summary judgment for employer where plaintiff alleged race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as violation of the Americans...

919-783-2854
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