By Brent I. Clark and Craig B. Simonsen
OSHA announced on December 1, 2015, that it had issued a number of “strategies and tools” for preventing workplace violence in the healthcare setting.
The strategies and tools were contained in a new webpage, “Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare.” The Agency indicates that the new webpage is part of OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals website, which “complements” its updated “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers,” that we blogged about earlier this year when it was published.
The new webpage includes “real-life examples from healthcare organizations that have incorporated successful workplace violence prevention programs,” and “models of how a workplace violence prevention program can complement and enhance an organization’s strategies for compliance and a culture of safety.”
OSHA concluded that from 2002 to 2013, incidents of serious workplace violence were “four times more common in healthcare than in private industry on average,” according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. OSHA had indicated previously, with the new Guidelines, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for 2013 that over 23,000 significant workplace injuries were due to violent assault at work, with more than seventy percent (70%) of these assaults being in the healthcare and social service settings.
OSHA believes that this new webpage “addresses this issue by providing hospital administrators with information on the risk factors, associated costs and actions that can be taken to manage the problem.” The webpage along with the Guidelines include what OSHA believes to be “industry best practices,” and provides direction on ways to reduce the risk of violence in various healthcare and social service settings.
Importantly for employers in these industries is that the webpage and the Guidelines stress the importance of developing a written workplace violence prevention program. The Guidelines state that a workplace program should include management commitment and employee participation, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and recordkeeping and program evaluation. OSHA provided a checklist for employers to use when developing their written programs.
Employers in healthcare and social service settings can use OSHA’s recent updates as an opportunity to review their own workplace violence programs and to update those programs as appropriate. At a minimum, employers should ensure that they have a written program in place that hits all of the areas highlighted by OSHA in these materials. That step will help improve workplace safety and greatly reduce the likelihood of receiving a citation should OSHA conduct an onsite inspection. OSHA is currently enforcing alleged workplace hazards under the General Duty Clause which is section 5(a)(1) of the of the OSH Act.