HR management entails a wide variety of tasks, and this includes preventing and preparing for workplace violence. In fact, California labor law makes it a requirement for healthcare facilities.
While all incidents of workplace violence are tragic, most people focus only on the more widely publicized occurrences involving multiple casualties. Unfortunately, deaths due to acts of workplace violence occur quite often. In fact, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
"Homicides accounted for approximately 9 percent of all fatal occupational injuries in 2015. There were 417 workplace homicides in 2015, a slight increase from 2014 but down 12 percent from the 475 reported in 2012."
Understanding Workplace Violence
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as,
“any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”
Workplace violence includes anything from verbal threats to physical confrontations, and - as already noted - in some cases can also be homicide. While many cases go unreported unfortunately, OSHA statistics shows that almost two million American workers report being the victims of workplace violence every year.
Workplace violence takes on different forms and the FBI categorizes these types of acts as follows:
1. Violent acts by criminals with no connection with the workplace, but who come in to commit robbery or another crime.
2. Violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates, or others who receive services from the organization.
3. Violence against coworkers, supervisors, or managers by a current or former employee.
4. Violence committed in the workplace by someone who doesn’t work there, but has a personal relationship with an employee such as a spouse or domestic partner.
It is quite likely that you or someone in your business has witnessed or even been a victim of one of these types of violent acts. The cost of these types of incidents is multi-fold. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that there are a number of economic costs that impact employers as a result of workplace violence including management time and expenses, loss of productivity and the costs of staff replacement due to turnover.
Workplace Violence Prevention Mandates
While much of what may occur when a violent act is carried out is beyond the control of employers, they still have a responsibility for prevention. In fact, according to the FBI,
“Employers have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment free from threats and violence.”
In many states, including California, organizations are required to have policies and practices in place to help anticipate and prevent acts of workplace violence. Consequently, all employers have an important role in preventing workplace violence.
In California, a state labor law requires healthcare facilities to have comprehensive plans to protect clinicians from workplace violence. The legislation became law back in 2014. More recently, one of the mandates of the law went into effect April 1, 2018 and applies to all acute-care hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities in California.
Because nurses in these facilities are typically the victims of most violent acts from patients and family members, the California Nurses Association advocated for the mandate. It is estimated that about 20% of nurses and nursing students in the U.S. say they have been physically assaulted on the job.
Under the California labor law, health care providers must assess and identify areas in which their employees are potentially subject to violence. in addition, prevention education and training must also be provided for everyone that works at a facility, including physicians.Included in the law's mandates, effective as of April 2017, requires healthcare facilities to implement and maintain a reporting log in which every incident of workplace violence is recorded.
Previous to this, it was felt that incidents of violence in the healthcare industry were not being recorded. In fact, a survey published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed that less than 20 percent of incidents were being reported.
While the law has substantial mandates to provide protections for healthcare workers in California facilities, there are some concerns expressed by the California Hospital Association (CHA). According to a post at Modern Health Care, one aspect is that the regulations require hospitals to assess patients and visitors for potentially violent behavior.
Gail Blanchard-Saiger, CHA vice president of labor and employment, pointed out that there was very little guidance from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health about how a hospital should appropriately do this. In addition, providers are required to train everyone that works at the facility, but that can be difficult to enforce since California hospitals do not directly employ doctors.
"Hospitals are committed to providing a safe work environment and complying with regulations, but there are challenges," she said. "There are a lot of different moving parts and ambiguity."
Prevention Planning and Policies
While the California labor law specifically requires workplace violence prevention practices at healthcare facilities, all employers and organizations should draw up and implement practices and policies, including a plan for responding to threats and actual incidents.
Business Management Daily has put together guidelines for accomplishing this, which are summarized here:
1. A zero-tolerance policy for weapons and threats in the workplace.
2. Screen applicants with references and criminal background checks.
3. Train supervisors to recognize warning signs of potential violence.
4. Establish a mediation program to resolve employee disputes.
5. Regularly evaluate security systems.
6. Require that employees with restraining orders report them to management.
7. Train front-line employees to be on the lookout for unusual or upsetting encounters.
8. Establish procedures for reporting threats or other violent behavior.
9. Document any threats and the management's response to them.
Have a strict procedure for terminating employees, including having someone present as a witness if terminating a violent employee. You should also consider having backup security, if possible. All of these policies should be in your employee handbook.
In addition to policies and prevention practices, your organization should have a plan that is communicated regularly to your employees.
Your Partner for HR Management
Accurate and timely management and HR compliance practices are required for HR professionals in every business. Managing all of this can be challenging, but you do have options.
Accuchex is a reputable workforce management services provider and can not only assist you with the burden of your ongoing compliance demands, but can potentially prove to be a more cost-effective solution, as well.
Click the button below to learn what you need to know about labor law in California. For more immediate information, feel free to call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.