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In the Spotlight Again: Workplace Violence

Originally posted October 28, 2014 on www.ubabenefits.com.

With three tragic incidents of workplace violence occurring during the same week in September, it’s no wonder the topic is once again making national headlines.

Just ahead of these terrible events, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported citing two companies for knowingly violating their obligation to protect workers from unsafe conditions — under the “general duty” or “broad duty” clause — and fined them both in excess of $70,000. This clause requires employers to create workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm or death to employees.

Given these recent cases and the highly publicized spate of workplace violence, employers everywhere are pondering the question of how to prevent violent incidents from occurring to and among their workers.

An outstanding article from Human Resource Executive Online, “Fighting Workplace Violence,” offers several ideas worth considering, including:

-Creating a formal workplace violence prevention policy that is shared among all workers and contained in a company’s Employee Handbook.

-Forming workplace violence prevention committees.

-Assessing security gaps.

-Establishing employee hotlines.

The article goes on to quote Richard Mendelson, deputy regional administrator at OSHA in New York, who said that senior executives, in particular, need to demonstrate their commitment toward developing a safe environment by implementing administrative controls and supporting zero tolerance policies for workplace violence. Mendelson also suggested that employers require employees to work in pairs or teams in certain situations and that they train employees to recognize threatening conditions.

Although workplace violence is back in the media spotlight, it appears that workplace homicides (which represent only one category of workplace violence) have actually decreased 16% from 2012 to 2013, according to data being compiled by organizations such as OSHA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to research by these organizations, 397 U.S. workplace deaths were homicides in 2013, accounting for 9% of all workplace deaths. Among the occupations in which a higher percentage of workplace deaths are due to homicide are retail sales, food preparation/serving, legal occupations, and business and financial operations.

If you’d like to learn more about how organizations can better prepare for and prevent workplace violence, the U.S. Department of Labor devotes an entire portion of its website to the topic of workplace violence.

The site addresses risk factors, prevention programs, training and enforcement and offers links to a wide variety of resources as well.