Employers have an obligation to safeguard their employees and to provide a workplace that is free of hazards likely to cause serious physical harm.
According to OSHA's website, the agency currently has no specific standards for workplace violence. But this does not let employers off the hook when it comes to responsibility and liability in cases of workplace violence. OSHA's website also notes the following:
"[U]nder the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." The courts have interpreted OSHA's general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard."
In addition, there is proposed legislation currently being considered that would require OSHA to issue an occupational safety and health standard requiring covered employers in the social service industries and healthcare to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans.
In February 2019, a hearing was held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections on House Resolution 1309, or the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. The driving force behind the bill is the fact that healthcare workers in particular suffer much higher on-the-job injury rates and workplace violence, while garnering little or no attention or publicity.
According to an article at Mondaq.com,
"[T]he current bill would force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an occupational safety and health standard that requires covered employers within the healthcare and social service industries to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans. The core of the bill centers on giving teeth to OSHA's Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers."
Regardless of what industry an organization is in, employers should develop workplace violence prevention programs in line with the needs of their industries and train their managers and employees accordingly.
Taking Steps to Prevent Workplace Violence
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicide is now the fourth leading cause occupational fatalities in the United States. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence every year. With the threat that real, workplace violence is a subject no employer can afford to ignore.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that,
"Every year, 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence. In 2014, 409 people were fatally injured in work-related attacks, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's about 16% of the 4,821 workplace deaths that year.
While roadway incidents are the No. 1 cause of death for workers overall, violence is the third leading cause for healthcare workers, and employees in professional and business services like education, law and media, according to Injury Facts 2016®. Taxi drivers, for example, are more than 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to OSHA."
Because of the high costs of workplace violence due to medical, legal and possible litigation costs, private and public sector organizations are wise to take a pro-active stance towards the potential for acts of workplace violence.
Understanding what workplace violence is defined as is the first step.
Workplace violence falls into four categories: Criminal intent, customer/client, worker-on-worker and personal relationship, which statistically targets women overwhelmingly. While no one can guarantee an absolutely violence-free workplace, much can be done to mitigate, abate and help prevent violence in the workplace.
And one of the best places to start is with a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan and program. A priority for organizations is to have a comprehensive plan in place that identifies violence risks and provides tactics for reducing them. The plan should provide means for employees to raise concerns and report issues, for communicating and reinforcing emergency procedures, and for establishing procedures to track progress.
We have created a brief guide to help managers towards developing their own plan:
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It Pays to Prevent Workplace Violence
OSHA frequently cites employers for failing to take steps to prevent workplace violence citing the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). In addition, OSHA's maximum penalty amounts recently increased as of January 23, 2019. For example, the "Serious and Other-Than-Serious" citations can now cost employers as much as $13,260 per violation, while "Willful or Repeated" citations can cost as a maximum $132,598 per violation.
In some states, such as California, the liability of employers can be greater and has been established in the courts. For example, CAL/OSHA's guidelines for workplace security provide information and guidance on workplace security issues for employers and workers. Included in the guidelines is the recommendation for employers to develop, implement and maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) for addressing the hazards known to be associated with workplace violence.
CAL/OSHA also has additional guidelines and recommendations for employers in high-risk industries such as health care and late-night retail for implementing workplace violence prevention programs.
In California, employers are expected to investigate job applicants to mitigate any potential workplace violence. This is not a light thing as the courts in California have repeatedly held that an employer can be liable for negligence in hiring or retaining an employee who is found to have been incompetent or unfit, and has harmed someone in the workplace.
For more information on preventing workplace violence there are resources at the Society of Human Resource Management.
HR and Workforce Management
Outsourcing HR functions is an increasingly common strategy for small businesses and the advantages are worth asking about. In addition to reducing your in-house costs, increasing accuracy and security, you can also benefit by freeing your HR resources for improving operational functions, recruiting efforts, and training.
When it comes to payroll management, you have a number of options for your HR and payroll staff. Software that can be installed in-house, or cloud-based programs offer a good alternative. But if you really want to take full advantage of the benefits available to you, outsourcing to a provider like Accuchex can still be the best decision.
Reliability, full-service options, and reputation are the hallmarks of a quality HR management service provider. If you are currently looking to invest in outsourcing, we can help you make an informed decision. Just call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.