The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently issued a directive called “Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence.” The directive sets forth procedures for OSHA inspectors to follow when they respond to incidents of workplace violence or conduct inspections at facilities that are susceptible to workplace violence.  

Workplace violence is a recognized occupational hazard, particularly in healthcare facilities, social service settings and late-night retail establishments. Assaults and homicide were the third leading cause of on-the-job fatalities in 2010. OSHA does not have a specific workplace violence standard. However, the agency has broad power to cite employers for violations of the “General Duty Clause” to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to keep their employees safe from “recognized hazards.”

While the directive is primarily intended as guidance for OSHA inspectors, it also contains a list of recommendations for employers. The directive states that an “employer may use any one or combination of the following abatement methods to materially reduce or eliminate the hazard of workplace violence”:

  • conducting a workplace violence hazard analysis;
  • providing training on workplace violence to employees;
  • implementing engineering and administrative controls to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence;
  • providing management support during emergencies;
  • promptly responding to all complaints of workplace violence; and
  • developing a written workplace violence prevention policy.

All employers should consider implementing one or more of these methods, particularly the workplace violence prevention policy, and should consult with counsel with experience drafting and reviewing these policies.