Earlier this year I commented upon a new enforcement emphasis by OSHA in the healthcare industry. At that time, OSHA issued a memorandum to its regional and state enforcement offices announcing a new inspection emphasis for inpatient healthcare providers, including hospitals and residential care facilities. The new inspection regime was designed to identify and correct causes of musculoskeletal injuries, slips, trips and falls, as well as workplace violence.

OSHA is now taking steps to address workplace violence in healthcare settings by announcing a new website that provides resources to employers in that field designed to assist in combating the problem. Unfortunately, incidents of workplace violence are becoming more commonplace. While that is true across all employment settings, the healthcare sector experiences a substantially disproportionate share. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of “serious workplace violence incidents” (defined as those requiring one or more days off to recuperate) was four times higher in the healthcare sector than in other industries. In fact, OSHA points out that there are nearly as many serious violent injuries in healthcare settings as in all other industries combined.

The resources contained on the new OSHA website are quite helpful. They provide easy to follow guidance for training, policy statements, and implementation of protocols for preventing workplace violence. Employers in all settings, not just healthcare, should spend time reviewing these materials and consider how to implement a strategy best designed to prevent or at least minimize workplace violence. Obviously, OSHA is entering into this realm and soon will be evaluating employers in multiple industries to ascertain if they have adequate policies and procedures in place to combat workplace violence. I generally recommend to clients that whenever OSHA offers “suggestions” for policy statements and protocols, the suggested materials should be seriously reviewed for implementation.

I have been involved in OSHA/TOSHA investigations regarding complaints of workplace violence and threats of violence. I expect those investigations only to increase as incidents of workplace violence continue to make headlines. I expect OSHA/TOSHA to soon begin issuing citations to employers who fail to have policies addressing workplace violence and protocols in place to prevent or minimize such acts. The beginning of a new year may be an appropriate time to begin that evaluation with your legal counsel.

If you would like to speak to John Lawhorn on this or any other subject, he may be reached at (865) 546-9321.