An OSHA Compliance Area You Need to Address: Preventing Workplace Violence in Your Small Business

You’re likely aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but you may not be aware of the entirety of the scope the office addresses in a variety of industries. Creating a plan for preventing workplace violence in your small business is one of the ways you need to stay compliant with OSHA guidelines.

An OSHA Compliance Area You Need to Address: Preventing Workplace Violence in Your Small Business

In 2017, citing the high levels of workplace violence, OSHA issued a directive focusing on violence in the workplace. According to OSHA,

Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide.

Although OSHA does not (yet) have a specific set of standards to inform workplace violence prevention, lawmakers are looking to establish just that. In the meantime, many businesses and industries are facing citations or fines from OSHA for non-compliance in the area of workplace violence prevention – especially those in the healthcare industry. So what does your business need to do?

Policy written with the aim to prevent workplace violence, and enforcement of that policy, is crucial. While certainly not all instances can be prevented, having a clearly-defined policy as a preventative measure will likely reduce the likelihood of such issues and will help you stay in compliance with OSHA.

In February, OSHA fined a Colorado nursing home for failing to protect employees from workplace violence. This instance is just one of the ways in which OSHA is focusing on preventing workplace violence. The healthcare industry is one example of an industry which should focus on establishing safety guidelines, policies, and procedures to protect workers. According to Modern Healthcare, the Joint Commission has made recommendations for hospital policy saying healthcare facilities “need to more clearly define what constitutes violence, better follow up with and support victims, and develop and assess prevention initiatives.”

Effective April 1, 2018, California is requiring hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans. The mandate was created with input from OSHA. If the legislation proves successful in reducing workplace violence in healthcare, it would be likely to see other states adopt similar legislation.

Rather than waiting for lawmakers to dictate policy requirements for workplace violence prevention, it is better for businesses to be proactive in establishing guidelines and procedures. Since there is not currently a federal-level standard for creating these policies, it’s best to consult a business law attorney who can analyze the need and draft state-appropriate policy language.

If your business has an incident and OSHA determines you failed to take action to prevent workplace violence, the company might be issued a citation and/or fine. If there is an ensuing Department of Labor investigation, you need to secure experienced legal representation for your company. This should be the legal partner you have established a relationship with already, but if no such relationship exists, you can work with and hire a local business attorney.  

One note of caution regarding enforcement of workplace violence prevention policies: be sure you are able to enforce standards without profiling employees. An attorney can provide you with specific recommendations and guidelines on what is legal and appropriate.