In Part II of this series, we will focus on why employers must act to prevent workplace violence and what actions may be taken to prevent it.
First, why must employers act to prevent workplace violence?
Employers have a legal and ethical obligation to promote a work environment free from threats and violence and, in addition, can face economic loss as the result of violence in the form of lost work time, damaged employee morale and productivity, increased workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and possible lawsuits and liability costs.1 As we already know, Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that employers shall furnish to each employee, employment and a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to the employee. Employers may be held liable for incidents of workplace violence under both federal and state law for failure to provide employees with a safe workplace.
Both OSHA2 and MIOSHA3 (NOTE: Michigan directly adopts the federal guidance!) identify the following known risk factors for workplace violence, which are pertinent our industry:
- Working alone or in small numbers.
- Working late at night or during early morning hours.
- Working in high-crime areas.
- Delivering passengers, goods or services.
- Having a mobile workplace such as a taxicab (or service vehicles.)
Should workplace violence result in serious employee injury or death, MIOSHA will look for any of the following documentation indicating that a SERIOUS workplace violence hazard existed and that the employer failed to keep its workplace free of recognized hazards:
- OSHA 300 (Injury/Illness) logs and 301 forms documenting injuries from workplace violence for the prior five years.
- Past complaints or grievances noting the particular hazard.
- Meeting minutes where workplace violence issues were discussed.
- Workers’ compensation records documenting injuries from workplace violence.
- Medical records regarding workplace violence incidents.
- Police and security records documenting incidents of workplace violence.
- Employee interviews, which include information on any previous incidents of violence.
- Actual or potential employee exposure to workplace violence.
- Documentation that the workplace violence hazard was reasonably foreseeable by the employer.
So, clearly, Michigan employers are expected to address their potential risk for workplace violence in order to reasonably protect their employees.
Second, what actions may be taken by employers to prevent workplace violence?
Employers’ actions commonly involve the following:
- Adopting a workplace violence policy and prevention program and communicating the policy and program to employees.
- Providing regular training in preventive measures for all new/current employees, supervisors, and managers.
- Supporting, not punishing, victims of workplace or domestic violence.
- Adopting and practicing fair and consistent disciplinary procedures.
- Fostering a climate of trust and respect among workers and between employees and management.
- When necessary, seeking advice and assistance from outside resources, including threat-assessment psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals, social service agencies, and law enforcement.
In Part III of our series on Workplace Violence Awareness and Prevention, we will focus on the elements for developing an effective policy and prevention program.
Should you require assistance with workplace violence awareness and prevention, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or Gary.Smith@yorkrsg.com.
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation Publication: Workplace Violence – Issues in Response
2. OSHA Instruction: Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Workplace Violence Incidents, Directive Number CPL 02-01-052, effective September 8, 2011.
3. MIOSHA Agency Memorandum (OSHA-MEMO-COM-12-2): Workplace Violence Inspection Procedures, effective February 21, 2012.