Sunday, September 25, 2016

Preventing and Preparing for Workplace Violence: What more could you be doing to reduce your risk and keep your employees safe?


Workplace Violence Prevention Information

Workplace Violence Prevention
for New York State Public Employers
What is Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is any physical assault or act of aggressive behavior occurring where a public employee performs any work-related duty in the course of his or her employment, including, but not limited to:

  • An attempt or threat, whether verbal or physical, to inflict physical injury upon an employee;
  • Any intentional display of force which would give an employee reason to fear or expect bodily harm;
  • Intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person without his or her consent that entails some injury; or
  • Stalking an employee with the interest in causing fear of physical harm to the physical safety and health of such employee when such stalking has arisen through and in the course of employment.
In 2006, New York State enacted legislation requiring public employers to develop and implement programs to prevent and minimize workplace violence and help ensure the safety of public employees.  While workplace violence can occur in any workplace setting, typical examples of employment situations that may pose higher risks include:
  • Duties that involve the exchange of money
  • Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
  • Duties that involve mobile workplace assignments
  • Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
  • Working alone or in small numbers
  • Working late at night or during early morning hours
  • Working in high-crime areas
  • Duties that involve guarding valuable property or possessions
  • Working in community-based settings
  • Working in a location with uncontrolled public access to the workplace
Who is covered?
Public employers include:
  • State agencies
  • Fire Departments
  • Political subdivisions of the state
  • Public authorities
  • School Safety Agents of the NYPD
  • Public benefit corporations and
  • any other governmental agency or instrumentality
But do not include:
  • Public school districts
  • New York City public schools
  • County Vocational Education and Extension Boards
  • (Employers defined in section 2801-A of New York State Education Law).
What do public employers have to do?

Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) has developed a How to Comply Guide to assist employers in complying with the regulations.  Essentially, employers must:

  1. Develop and post a written policy statement about the employer's workplace violence prevention program goals and objectives.
  2. Conduct a risk evaluation by examining the workplace for potential hazards related to workplace violence.
  3. Develop a workplace violence prevention program (preferably in writing, although that is only required for employers with 20 or more full-time permanent employees) that explains how the policy is actually going to be implemented.  The program will include details about the risks that were identified in the evaluation and describe how the employer will address those risks.  It will also include a system to report any incidents of workplace violence, among other things.
  4. Provide training and information for employees around the workplace violence prevention program including any risk factors identified and what employees can do to protect themselves. 
  5. Document workplace violence incidents and maintain those records. 

How does the Department of Labor respond to complaints of workplace violence hazards?

An employee must first notify a supervisor, in written format, of a serious violation of the workplace violence prevention program and allow a reasonable period of time for correction. For cases involving imminent danger, the local authorities should be contacted immediately.  If the matter has not been resolved, a complaint may be filed with the Department of Labor's Division of Safety and Health PESH bureau.  Valid complaints may result in a worksite inspection to determine if the employer has implemented the requirements of the Workplace Violence Prevention regulation.  Employers found to be out of compliance with the requirements noted above will receive notices of violation.  Note: it is important to address any violations within the agreed upon abatement period so that the employer does not risk incurring fines for failing to comply. 

How can PESH help?

PESH has provided a number of resources here to assist employers who are trying to come into compliance with the workplace violence prevention regulation.  In addition, PESH has a consultation branch that is separate and kept confidential from the enforcement branch, which provides free consultation surveys at the request of the employer.  The employer can also set the scope of these surveys.  PESH helps to identify the hazards present and recommends ways to correct each hazard.  PESH also offers consultants to help train employees and correct violations cited as a result of an enforcement inspection. 

How to Comply Guide
Appendix 1 Workplace Violence Prevention Policy Statement
Appendix 2-A Records Examination
Appendix 2-B Evaluation of the Physical Environment
Appendix 3 List of Risks and Mitigation Efforts
Appendix 4 Workplace Violence Prevention Training Outline
Appendix 5 Workplace Violence Incident Report
Workplace Violence Prevention Regulations
Workplace Violence Prevention Statute
PESH Consultation Assistance Fact Sheet   
Juries hold employers responsible for these incidents with increasing frequency and in staggering amounts. What more could you be doing to reduce your risk and keep your employees safe? 

An estimated 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year, costing businesses billions of dollars annually in impaired productivity, employee turnover, security measures and legal costs, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Juries hold employers responsible for these incidents with increasing frequency and in staggering amounts. Recently, in Yowan Yang v. ActioNet, Inc, a California helpdesk technician was awarded nearly $7.4 million in damages following a workplace violence incident where a coworker grabbed the technician's neck and choked him.

These types of cases are not limited to California or to violence committed by coworkers. Last year, in Integra Health Mgmt., OSHA cited a Florida employer for failing to provide a reasonably safe workplace in violation of OSHA's General Duty Clause after one of its health care service coordinators was fatally stabbed during an at home visit with a patient.

While an individual OSHA citation carries maximum penalties, the citations can carry much greater implications for employers. Several courts have held that a willful violation of an OSHA regulation is evidence of a breach of the standard of care owed to employees under state law. Thus, in these states, an OSHA citation could affect workers' compensation exclusivity and allow an employee to sue the employer for the injury in state court.

OSHA's Recommendations for a Workplace Violence Program

The first step in reducing the risk of and preparing for workplace violence incidents is to develop a comprehensive, written workplace violence program. If an incident of workplace violence does occur, one of the first things OSHA will do is determine whether the employer has an adequate written workplace violence program in place. The program should offer a blueprint of the various measures the employer will take to prevent and respond to workplace violence. 

According to OSHA, a written workplace violence program should include, at a minimum:
  • A written workplace violence policy statement for employees.
  • The assignment of oversight and prevention responsibilities to appropriate personnel.
  • A workplace violence hazard assessment and security analysis, including a list of the risk factors and hazards identified in the assessment and how the employer will address the specific hazards identified.
  • An employee questionnaire to obtain input on potential risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Appropriate employee training on the workplace violence program and policy.
  • A training program, including a written outline and/or lesson plan.
  • Development of workplace violence controls, including engineering and administrative controls, to prevent incidents.
  • A recordkeeping system and guidelines.
  • An annual review of the workplace violence program, including an updated hazard assessment each year.
Procedures, policies and responsibilities to be implemented in the event of a workplace violence incident, including investigation procedure.​

Developing a Workplace Violence Program and Policy 

A written workplace violence program is more comprehensive in scope than a written workplace violence policy statement, which is a component of the program. The workplace violence policy is an important part of the workplace violence prevention program because it summarizes what is and is not expected of employees, and explains how the standards of conduct will be enforced. 

An employer drafting a written workplace violence program and policy should evaluate the workplace and ascertain what makes sense in that workplace's particular context. Steps in evaluating can include:
  • Reviewing any history of violence in that particular workplace, including employee questionnaires, OSHA 300 logs, incident reports and health and safety records.
  • Evaluating the history of violence in similar places of employment.
  • Visually inspecting the workplace to identify risks associated with the design, layout and administrative procedures.
  • Reviewing unique risk factors in your workplace (e.g., workplace is located in an area with a high crime rate, public access to workplace is not limited or controlled, employees are working late night or early morning hours).
Once the workplace is evaluated and factors identified that may increase the risk of violence, employers can implement engineering and administrative controls as a part of the workplace violence program. This includes workplace design factors: for example, limiting the number of entrances, using access cards or keys to control access to the building or certain areas of the building, using adequate exterior lighting and installing video surveillance. 

Administrative controls can include drills for responding to incidents and training employees in nonviolent alternative dispute resolution, how to identify indicators and signals of potential violent episodes and how to respond to incidents of workplace violence.

Once an employer develops a written workplace violence program and policy, consistent and regular employee training and enforcement of the policy are key elements for success. A comprehensive workplace violence program and policy can only go so far if management does not actually implement the program and consistently enforce the policy.


This workplace violence website provides information on the extent of violence in the workplace, assessing the hazards in different settings and developing workplace violence prevention plans for individual worksites.
What is workplace violence?
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. Homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2014, 403 were workplace homicides. [More...] However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide.
Who is at risk of workplace violence?
Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. 

Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence. 

Among those with higher-risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.
How can workplace violence hazards be reduced?
In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

By assessing their worksites, employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and federal workplaces.

This can be a separate workplace violence prevention program or can be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures. It is critical to ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly. In addition, OSHA encourages employers to develop additional methods as necessary to protect employees in high risk industries.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.

OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Small businesses may contact OSHA's free On-site Consultation services funded by OSHA to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites. To contact free consultation services, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.

If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.