OSEA Safety Blog

Workplace Violence Safety

Thursday, December 10, 2020 Amanda Coniglio

Workplace Violence Safety

Chock it up to the world we live in, or not, but stats show incidents of workplace violence are on the rise. OSHA estimates that 2 million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence each year. These incidents can include threats of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, and any other threatening behavior. Jobs that are considered higher risk include: health care workers, home health aides, social workers, utility workers, municipal workers, and emergency responders.

Most cases of reported workplace violence are, fortunately, in the form of verbal abuse – i.e. harassment, insults, aggressive arguments, and threats. Reported cases rarely escalated to physical assault or homicide, which sounds terrific, but the effects of verbal abuse can be devastating to an organization as well. Verbal abuse can cause low morale, poor work performance, increased accident rates, and long-term psychological harm to the victim(s).

It’s important to note that workplace violence incidents aren’t always between employees; they can come from customers, clients, and anyone with personal connections to an employee. In fact, you’ll notice above that the higher risk jobs for workplace violence have employees in positions of high contact with the general public.

The best way to mitigate the hazards of workplace violence include program development with specific procedures, training, and conducting drills at your location. By developing a plan and task/job specific procedures for managing incidents at your workplace, you become proactive in workplace violence prevention. Once a plan/program is established, it’s time to train your employees to recognize workplace violence before it escalates, how to report incidents, how to respond when and if an incident occurs, and de-escalation techniques. Once training has been done, it’s time to run some drills! Sometimes seeing a program/plan in action helps your employees understand the practical application piece and what it looks like.

It’s up to employers to prevent workplace violence, and to prepare employees to respond appropriately under the OSHA General Duty Clause. However, you should aim for more than just regulatory compliance. Take a vested interest in your employees' health and safety, and you’re likely to see improved productivity! Protect your employees, protect your bottom line!

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