According to OSHA, workplace violence affects 2 million American workers every year. Is your company doing everything possible to protect them?
Acts of violence are committed everywhere in our country, and sometimes, they can even happen in the workplace. As an employer, workplace violence may not be a major concern for you; after all, it’s not your fault if any onsite violent acts occur, right?
In some cases, this mindset is completely wrong.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency within the U.S. Department of Labor that is responsible for setting and enforcing safe working conditions and standards, has not set any specific standards when it comes to workplace violence. There are, however, rules under their General Duty Clause that state employers are required to provide employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”
OSHA says that if an employer “has experienced acts of workplace violence, or becomes aware of threats, intimidation, or other indicators showing that the potential for violence in the workplace exists,” then that would be their cue that something needs to be done. Being aware of the potential for workplace violence means they have identified “recognizable hazards” and need to figure out a way to provide their employees with a safer work environment.
One way employers can help prevent workplace violence is by instituting an OSHA workplace violence policy or program. This shows that you are aware of hazards but are actively trying to prevent them and keep your employees safe and healthy.
Creating your OSHA workplace violence policy
Depending on your company and what you perceive to be necessary, your OSHA workplace violence policy can take a few forms. Some employers choose to incorporate the policy into an existing employee handbook or accident prevention program, while others may create an entirely separate booklet or program. Whatever you feel is best, consider these tips when putting together your policy:
Make it clear that your policy is zero-tolerance
Employees must know that anything remotely resembling workplace violence will not be tolerated, and offenders will be punished accordingly. If you give people an inch, most will take a mile, so establishing the zero-tolerance policy shows that your company takes this matter very seriously.
Consider the risks your employees face
Some workers are automatically at an increased risk of workplace violence, simply based on the duties of their position, when they work, or where they work. OSHA lists high-risk employees as being those who exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods or services; work alone or in small groups; work during late night or early morning hours; work in high-crime areas; or work in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public. They say this group of people may include health care and social service workers or community workers like gas and water utility employees, phone and cable TV installers, letter carriers, retail workers, and taxi drivers.
Think about how employees can avoid those risks
Once you have identified not just high-risk employees, but workplace violence risks any of your employees may face, brainstorm ways that you can help them avoid those situations. Of course, there are always going to be circumstances beyond your control, but by making some changes, simply calling attention to risks, and offering a bit of safety advice and education, you'll play a big role in protecting your team.
Tell employees what to do if they encounter workplace violence
While it is essential that you do your part to help prevent workplace violence, there may be times when these incidents still occur. Your OSHA workplace violence policy should ensure your employees know what to do in the event they are injured or witness violence against a co-worker.
Encourage employees to report and document all incidents or threats internally and to the police. Assure them that when they come to you, you will ensure they receive prompt medical attention and any post-traumatic counseling services they need and that the violent incidents or threats will be fully investigated.
The bottom line is that every company will have a different OSHA workplace violence policy, but certain things should always be the same: establish a zero-tolerance policy, identify risks employees face, find ways to minimize these risks, and be sure employees know what to do if they encounter workplace violence.
Risk management isn’t just part of preventing workplace violence—it is critical in every aspect of running a business. Contact your Pekin Insurance agent about your options for business insurance, and we will help identify the risks your company faces, make recommendations for protection, and help put together a businessowners insurance policy you can afford and feel good about.
Have you ever created an OSHA workplace violence policy? If you have any advice or tips, share your thoughts in the comments below!