OSHA Forms Alliance Focusing on Workplace Violence

By Roy Maurer Mar 25, 2009
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the formation of an alliance with health care providers and professional associations on March 5, 2009, to help reduce and prevent exposure to workplace violence throughout Florida.

Alliance partners include the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Pensacola Chapter, EAP Lifestyle Management LLC, Sacred Heart Health System Inc., the Employee Assistance Professional Association Big Bend Chapter, the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, the University of South Florida Consultation Services Program, and the Northwest Florida Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc.

“With up to 5 percent of American workplaces experiencing a workplace violence episode annually, this alliance is both timely and beneficial to all employers,” said James Borders, OSHA area director, Jacksonville, Fla., at the signing ceremony for the alliance. “The need is especially acute in Florida, where the number of work-related homicides rose by more than 40 percent from 2006 to 2007.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace homicides in the United States increased by 13 percent in 2007, while only about 8.8 percent of workplaces have a violence prevention program. FBI studies estimate nearly 355,000 businesses, or 5 percent of all workplaces, will experience a workplace violence episode in any given year. The study showed that between 1993 and 1999, incidents ranged from homicides (approximately 900 annually) to simple assaults (approximately 1.3 million incidents annually).

Goals of the alliance include working with OSHA to develop training and educational materials that identify and prevent workplace violence, developing communication practices, addressing workplace violence issues, and sharing best practices on workplace violence prevention. Alliance members will be available to speak, exhibit or appear at participating organizations’ conference meetings and other events to discuss the issue as well as to promote a national dialogue on workplace violence through participating in forums, round table discussions and stakeholder meetings on workplace violence.

The ASSE has published suggestions for employers addressing the prevention of workplace violence in its 2004 Workplace Violence Survey & White Paper:

Officers and directors are responsible for establishing a workplace violence prevention policy, promoting a clear anti-violence corporate policy, and establishing and maintaining security policies.

Human resource managers can examine and improve hiring practices, improve screening techniques and background checks, encourage employees to report threats and violent behavior, establish termination policies, and provide post-termination counseling.

Risk management departments have responsibility for training employees in the warning signs of aggressive and violent behavior, training management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques, conducting a formal workplace violence risk assessment, increasing security as needed, and developing and communicating a crisis-contingency plan to all employees.

OSHA has more than 470 safety and health alliances throughout the nation as part of the agency's efforts to improve the safety and health of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers and government agencies.

Roy Maurer is a staff writer for SHRM.

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