Acts of violence and other injuries is currently the third-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 5,147 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2017, 458 were cases of intentional injury by another person..”

Every year, millions of American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. Because of their shocking nature, we hear more about active shooter events than any other type of workplace violence. Yes, your workplace violence prevention plan needs to address these extreme events, but it also needs to address all types of recognized workplace risks your employees may face.

OSHA’s General Duty is at the Core of a Safety Program

OSHA’s General Duty Clause (GDC) makes it clear that employers have an obligation to protect workers from serious and recognized workplace hazards even where there is no standard.

One key phrase is “recognized” hazard. To qualify as a recognized hazard there must be one of the following:

• Employer recognition and knowledge of a hazardous condition
• An awareness of the hazard’s existence within the employer’s industry
• Common sense recognition, where a hazardous condition is so obvious that any reasonable person would have recognized it

OSHA General Duty Clause

What is Workplace Violence?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines it as “the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work on duty.”

OSHA defines it as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.”

Examples of Workplace Violence (not an exhaustive list)

  • Threats
  • Vandalism/Sabotage
  • Stalking
  • Physical Assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • Domestic Violence
  • Attempted Homicide/Homicide
  • Product Contamination
  • Arson/Bombing
  • Terrorism

Plan for ALL Types of Workplace Violence and Recognized Risks

Your company policies should outline what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Include examples of workplace violence, racial or sexual harassment, drug and alcohol use and related safety procedures. One key element is to have a complaint and/or reporting process that all employees can use.

Review and assess your security measures. This includes things such as lighting inside and outside your buildings, data security, and premises security. Do you have security guards who patrol the facility and the grounds? Do you have video surveillance inside and out?

Ensure you have protocols in place for those that work alone, in the field, on the road, at night. There are many types of technology available that can benefit a lone worker in dangerous situations.

Establish policies for when, where and how non-employees are allowed in your building, work operations and jobsites. This means limiting visitors who have no business being in or on your facility, having ID cards for visitors and a sign-in desk or having metal detectors at entry points.

Make sure all employees understand the threat of intruders and the risk they present and know how to report suspicious events.

And, don’t forget to have a plan that addresses an active shooter situation. Just don’t make your workplace violence prevention plan focus on this one event.


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