Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Protecting Employees from Workplace Violence

Being Aware and Having an Emergency Action Plan

The December 2nd, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino California, where 14 people were shot to death and 21 were injured at an office gathering, is a sobering reminder that violence in the workplace is an issue of concern for all of us. For employers, it is critical to ensure that all employees know the company's safety and violence prevention policies and procedures. In addition, companies can offer additional protections:


  • Verify information on all new hires through reference checking.
  • Screen applicants by conducting background checks. Condition offers of employment upon the completion of background checks, drug tests or medical exams.
  • Review workers’ compensation records and illness claims to identify patterns of assault or other workplace violence. Understand industry trends and specific job exposures.


  • Have a clear, written policy protecting employees from harassment, threats and intimidation. Policies should note that any complaints of harassment or threats will be investigated fully and appropriate steps taken, including discipline and discharge.
  • Establish a complaint/grievance procedure.
  • Establish/communicate how to access employee assistance program (EAP) services.
  • Offer outplacement counseling to employees being laid off or terminated.


  • Consider implementing the following security measures: monitoring systems, limited access key cards, employee identification cards, emergency warning systems, security guards, visitor sign-in policies, security escorts in case of emergencies.

Crisis Plan

Develop a crisis plan that outlines how to report incidents of workplace violence, instructions on who to notify and:

  • How to assess the situation, get help, warn other employees and secure the workplace.
  • When and how to involve the police and gather information to assist an investigation.
  • Follow-up activities like debriefing employees, resuming operations and long-term planning.
All employers should and probably do maintain an evacuation plan, but few employees even drill about the plan.  Moreover, responding to a tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster is far different from responding to a fire, explosion, shooting, or collapse of the electrical grid. 
  •          Have you as an employer even thought about how you should respond to such events and protect your employees? 
  •          Do you maintain an Emergency Ection Plan (EAP) under OSHA regulations? 
  •          Do you even know what triggers the obligation to have an EAP?
There is much talk about workplace violence, but have you assessed your operation to determine where risks are presented?  Do you have employees making deliveries or going to customers’ homes unaccompanied? Have you professionally assessed security for entrance and exits?  Do management and HR know when they should be concerned about potentially dangerous employee behavior and what to do next?

If your answer is to simply point to the binder on a shelf or to be self assured that you have “competent people to take care of such matters,” then perhaps it is time to roll up your sleeves and check.
OSHA Focus on Workplace Violence

If you want additional motivation, OSHA is dead serious about inspecting employers for workplace violence exposures and issuing citations under its general duty powers. 

Special Focus on Workplace Violence in Healthcare

OSHA is also quite serious about conducting health care and hospital inspections which focus on workplace violence and ergonomic concerns.
See Also
Image credit: Chris Kuhlman 

For more information on this and other healthcare compliance topics related to HIPAA, OSHA, Medicare and HR, simply email your questions to support@hcsiinc.com
visit our website at http://www.hcsiinc.com or post a question on our LinkedIn group at: http://bit.ly/1FWmtq6

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