New Standards For Workplace Violence Prevention And Incident Investigations

by Michael Nossaman

Two documents published in 2011 put new demands on businesses to implement effective safety measures to reduce the incidence of workplace violence.

In September, OSHA issued a compliance directive that establishes uniform procedures for its field staff when responding to incidents and complaints of workplace violence and conducting inspections in industries considered vulnerable to workplace violence.

ASIS International and the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) published the American National Standard for “Workplace Violence Prevention and Intervention,” (WVPI) in October, “that provides an overview of policies, processes, and protocols that organizations can adopt to help identify and prevent threatening behavior and violence affecting the workplace, and to better address and resolve threats and violence that have actually occurred.”

The OSHA directive is primarily for use by OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) who will conduct inspections of at risk businesses or respond to an incident, and is useful as a map for employers to understand the scope of their responsibility to provide safe work and safe workplace under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.  OSHA does not have a specific standard that addresses workplace violence and this is the first enforcement directive ever issued on the subject by the agency.

The ASIS-SHRM standard goes deep into recommendations for developing and implementing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary WVPI program; a threat management protocol, and practices that can help in effectively managing post-incident issues.

It recommends that the multi-disciplinary group include top-management, legal, HR, security, safety and health, crisis management, risk management, unions, EAPs, PR, and even outside experts.  It charts the specific contributions of each of these experts but does not suggest which one should take the lead in the initiative.

Together, these two documents are a good resource for establishing or improving a WVPI program to protect employees.  They also signal that a formal and comprehensive WVPI is not something that can be ignored or that just a minimum effort will suffice, especially in terms of downstream liability in the aftermath of an incident.

The OSHA directive is available free from OSHA.  You can download a free PDF of the OSHA directive from the PSC website:  Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence.

The ASIS-SHRM standard is free to download one time for ASIS members.  Hard copies can be purchased by non-members for $117.00.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. I agree with your comment Michael, the new standard applies to a very small number and percentage of actual workplace homicides and assaults. That may be the result of the rather amorphous definition of workplace violence, i.e. a crime committed in a place of work is considered workplace violence. That might also partly explain why OSHA does not have a specific standard for workplace violence and relies of the General Duty clause.
    The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) published a research study in January 2012 that takes a deep statistical look at the facts.
    “Homicides account for 11% of workplace fatalities. Nonfatal assaults by persons make up less than 2% of total nonfatal lost work-time (LWT) injuries and illnesses, but that share has been increasing. Homicides due to robberies and similar criminal acts fell markedly over the late 1990s (but still make up 69% of all homicides), due largely to the decline in the homicide incidence rate for taxi drivers. The work-related homicide rates for these workers are now comparable to those for high-risk retail workers such as service station attendants and barbers.
    In contrast, homicides committed by work associates (a Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] category made up of both coworkers and customers) have increased to about 21%. Interestingly, this reflects an increase in violent acts by customers to 9%. Despite the headlines, the share of workplace homicides due to coworkers has remained steady at about 12%, and the actual number of such homicides has been in the 50 to 60 range in recent years.”
    Here is a link to the NCCI summary: https://www.ncci.com/nccimain/IndustryInformation/ResearchOutlook/Pages/NCCIResearch-ViolenceWorkplace.aspx
    That page also has a link to the full report.
    As I said in the article, the takeaway from the OSHA directive and ASIS/SHRM Standard, for most companies, is the implication that a failure to provide a formal mechanism for prevention and intervention could result in costly downstream liability exposure.
    The end of it is that low-risk industries must now address yet another low-probability/high-impact concern.

  2. I don’t fault OSHA’s priorities. They are going where the statistics demonstrate the harm is the greatest. By focusing on robbery-homicide they get after 2/3 of workplace murders. By going after injuries to healthcare workers they address 2/3 of the lost work time injuries due to violence. I wish all priorities were as easy to set. Thanks for mentioning the NCCI “Violence in the Workplace” study. Balanced reports on this important issue rarely get much press. There is also the DoJ’s “Workplace Violence, 1993-2009” http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/wv09.pdf , the CDC’s “Workplace Violence Prevention Strategies and Research Needs” http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2006-144/pdfs/2006-144.pdf , and the classic, if dated “Work-related Homicides: The Facts” by Sygnatur and Toscano http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/archive/spring2000art1.pdf Another, fine but expensive resource, is the IOFM study “2011 Report on Workplace Violence: Complete Guide to Managing Today’s and Tomorrow’s Threats” http://www.iofm.com/research/view/workplace-violence-guide-2011 These thoughtful documents endeavor to assign appropriate weight to the different categories of WPV, while in most other writing on the topic important distinctions are neglected or ignored. It is regrettable that the ASIS SHRM ANSI standard does not expend much ink on the issues that result in the most fatalities or injuries.

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