According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there were 526 workplace homicides in 2008, accounting for approximately 10 percent of all fatal work injuries. And according to an OSHA fact sheet on workplace violence, some 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence each year.
Unfortunately, when it comes to training, workplace violence is too often an afterthought – at least until it is front page news. This week I came across several articles (Time; NewsTimes.com; Seyfarth Shaw LLP) and discussions centered on workplace violence and bullying - including a discussion on LinkedIn about whether keeping employees safe from violence even belongs in the realm of EH&S?
Regardless, who should be in charge of safeguarding against workplace violence, the current reality is that safety managers must deal with it. Again from the OSHA fact sheet on violence: “The Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSH Act) requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers covered by the OSH Act. Employers who do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate a recognized violence hazard in the workplace can be cited.”
This last point was illustrated by fines OSHA handed out to a Danbury, Conn hospital for "inadequate workplace violence safeguards."
So What To Do?
Luckily, there is a wealth of information and a number of training tools available to employers looking to safeguard employees against workplace violence. OSHA offers the following tips:
- Provide safety education for employees so they know what conduct is not acceptable, what to do if they witness or are subjected to workplace violence, and how to protect themselves.
- Secure the workplace. Where appropriate to the business, install video surveillance, extra lighting, and alarm systems and minimize access by outsiders through identification badges, electronic keys, and guards.
- Provide drop safes to limit the amount of cash on hand. Keep a minimal amount of cash in registers during evenings and late night hours.
- Equip field staff with cellular phones and hand-held alarms or noise devices, and require them to prepare a daily work plan and keep a contact person informed of their location throughout the day. Keep employer provided vehicles properly maintained.
- Instruct employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe. Introduce a “buddy system” or provide an escort service or police assistance in potentially dangerous situations or at night.
- Develop policies and procedures covering visits by home health-care providers. Address the conduct of home visits, the presence of others in the home during visits, and the worker’s right to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation.
Furthermore, the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence has a list of warning signs called: The Unlucky 13 and additional information on workplace violence can be found on OSHA’s website , and the CDC/NIOSH website.
If you are looking for training tools to help get your employees up to speed on preventing workplace violence, MSDSonline offers an on-demand training package on Workplace Violence.
Workplace Violence is designed for all employees and provides instruction on reducing the risks of becoming a victim of the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the U.S. It includes information on the environmental conditions to avoid, control strategies, and advice on recognizing warning signs and dealing with volatile situations.
Call 1.888.362.2007, or visit Workplace Safety Training for information about our on-demand training offering, including a list of available courses. If you’re interested in an option that does not require all employees to be present at the same time, you can take a pass on a classroom style format and consider an online solution.