Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Avoid Workplace Violence With Info From OSHA

Posted by STP Editorial Team on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 the majority of people hear the word “violence” they think of physical assault. Of course we know that acts of violence go beyond the physical to include any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted. Every year almost two million U.S. workers report having been victimized by acts of workplace violence, yet many cases still go unreported. Workplace violence is a much bigger problem than many people realize, and it can happen anywhere at any time, and everyone is at risk.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) generally categorize workplace violence as follows:

  • Threatening behaviour—shaking fists, destroying property, vandalism, throwing objects.

  • Verbal or written threats—expression of an intent to inflict harm. 

  • Harassment—behaviour that demeans, embarrasses, humiliates, annoys, alarms, or verbally abuses a person and that is understood, or expected, to be unwelcomed (can include provocation of arguments, spreading rumours, use of body language or gestures for intimidation, bullying, or other inappropriate activities that create psychological trauma, pranking, etc.).

  • Verbal abuse—swearing, insults, or condescending language. 

  • Physical attacks—hitting, shoving, pushing, kicking, theft, rape, arson, murder.

Another factor to consider is that workplace violence isn’t limited to incidents that occur “on the job.” Work-related violence can happen at off-site business-related functions such as conferences and trade shows or social events, in a client’s home, or away from work but resulting from work, like a threatening phone call to your home from a client.

Also, certain work factors, such as time of day, month, or year (late night or early morning, during tax returns, report cards, pay days, etc.), or geographic location (near bars or banks or in areas isolated from other buildings or structures), can pose a risk of increased violence, as can other things like the processes and type of interactions that occur on the job. Examples might include the following:

  • Working with the public.

  • Handling money, valuables, or prescription drugs.

  • Carrying out inspection or having enforcement duties.

  • Providing service, care, advice, or education, or being in community-based settings or having to make home visits. 

  • Working with unstable or volatile persons. 

  • Working in premises where alcohol is served. 

  • Working alone, in small numbers, or in isolated or low-traffic areas such as washrooms, storage areas, or utility rooms.

  • Having a mobile workplace, like a taxi driver.

  • Working during company downsizing or strikes.

It may surprise some you to learn that some of the most “violent” jobs can be found in the healthcare and social service industries. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the “majority of injuries from assaults at work that required days away from work occurred in the healthcare and social services settings. Between 2011 and 2013, workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 and 25,630 annually, with 70 to 74% occurring in healthcare and social service settings. For healthcare workers, assaults comprise 10 – 11% of workplace injuries involving days away from work, as compared to 3% of injuries of all private sector employees.” BLS data, combined with that of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), also reveal that “27 out of the 100 fatalities in healthcare and social service settings that occurred in 2013 were due to assaults and violent acts.”

Click here to learn more about employer responsibilities and employee rights, how to identify and avoid violence in the workplace, and where to file a complaint or report an incident; make sure to also check out the “Highlights” section of the webpage, where you can find OSHA’s updated “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers” and other helpful publications, directives, and fact sheets.

STP has recently updated its publication OSHA Auditing: Federal Compliance Guide: Facilities and also publishes the following related guides:

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, Employee Rights, Workplace violence, criminal background checks