OSHA has issued a directive that establishes procedures for how the agency’s field staff will respond to and investigate complaints of workplace violence. Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violencegives special attention to industries considered vulnerable to workplace violence such as healthcare, social service settings and late-night retail establishments.
Workplace violence is recognized as a serious occupational hazard, ranking among the top four causes of death in workplaces during the past 15 years. More than 3,000 people died from workplace homicide between 2006 and 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). More than 15,000 people are injured by workplace violence each year.
At one Maine psychiatric hospital, more than 90 assaults on employees by patients occurred over a two-year period. The hospital was cited by OSHA for failing to provide adequate safeguards against workplace violence and fined more than $6,000. OSHA has also recently cited facilities in New York and Massachusetts where employees have been killed as a result of assaults.
Along with the directive, the agency has launched a new web page: Preventing Workplace Violence.
Studies by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health show that employee training and hazard analyses can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. Using entrance door detectors or buzzer systems can help minimize risk in retail establishments and providing adequately trained staff, alarms and employee "safe rooms" to use during emergencies can do the same in healthcare settings.