New OSHA Interpretation Regarding Workplace Violence

New OSHA Interpretation Regarding Workplace Violence – Bruce Gillooly

As a business owner, I spent an inordinate amount of time receiving regulatory compliance advice from my General Counsel. At times, it seemed like she, along with my Risk Manager would make up seemingly ridiculous government regulations with which our business needed to comply. On a rare occasion, they would present one that seemed like a “no brainer”. I would wonder why that regulation hadn’t been enacted long ago because it truly was beneficial to our industry and our employees. I’d issue orders to update our policies, add the appropriate training for our company to comply, and spend the necessary funds to “make us legal”. These were some of the easiest decisions I ever made.

I recently encountered this situation again. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Review Commission made what I characterize as a “no brainer” decision to obligate employers to protect their employees from Workplace Violence (WPV). Whereas OSH had previously recommended such protections be in place, they now mandate it.

This is the type of regulation I applaud and with which I would freely comply. General Counsels and Risk Managers are studying the regulations to determine what they need to do to keep their organizations in compliance. The Center for Personal Protection and Safety (CPPS) has already completed this work for you. We are an industry leader in Policy and Procedure updates, Workplace Violence Prevention and Protection training, Threat and Crisis Management training, and Executive training. In fact, our Safe Workplace Certification helps to inoculate your company against unforeseen and damaging litigation related to a Workplace Violence incident. I encourage GC’s and RM’s to review the information below to reach your own conclusions regarding OSH’s obligatory new standard. Afterward, if you think your employees need additional protection against WPV, or your company needs additional assistance complying, we can help you.

Cost of Workplace Violence on the Rise

On March 4, 2019, in a groundbreaking decision, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Review Commission ruled for the first time that the OSH Act’s (OSHA) General Duty Clause obligates employers to protect their workers from workplace violence.

We also teach how to determine which of the three to choose based on your circumstances. Much of that decision is determined by the shooter; particularly, where he is located relative to your location. Ideally, you want to put as much distance between you and the shooter as quickly as possible, but only if doing so does not put you in the shooter’s crosshairs along the way.

When a victim of actual violence settles out of court, the average settlement is $500,000. And jury awards to victims average $3 million, although a few awards have reached as high as $5.49 million. Likewise, awards for non-violent illegal actions can approach these amounts in some circumstances.

Below are examples of OSHA and Department of Labor citations and court awards:

Company Settlement Reason
UHS of Westwood Pembroke, Inc. $207,690 Failure to implement a written Workplace Violence Program that identified risk factors, such as availible means of egress, items that could be used as weapons, presence of secured and/or locked rooms/units, and spaces that could pose a risk of entrapment.
Epic Health Services $196,000 Will violation for failing to maintain a safe workplace under General Duty Clause.
Pioneer Health Care Center of Rocky Ford, CO $9,054 Failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace.
Integrated Life Choices, Inc. $12,000 Exposing employees to hazards related to workplace video violence.
TMT, Inc. $19,600 Violation of General Duty Clause for failure to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause injury or death.

Nevertheless, businesses are paying a heavy toll, to include $55 million in lost wages. Today, the annual comprehensive cost to businesses, including estimated losses, is $130 billion compared to $36 billion in 1995.