OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

March 12, 1997

Mr. Jordan Barab
Assistant Director
Health and Safety Department of Research
and Collective Bargaining Service
1625 L Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-5687

Dear Mr. Barab:

This is in response to your letter of January 22. You requested clarification of OSHA's investigative policy for occupational fatalities associated with violence. You also expressed concern that OSHA does not automatically inspect such workplace fatalities.

OSHA shares your concern about the increasing prevalence of workplace violence and has endeavored through the production of guidelines to address the problem. As you are aware, this is an emerging issue for OSHA and we are still in the process of making policy determinations with respect to enforcement. The prevailing policy with respect to determination of inspection scheduling is to allow the Area Directors of each area office to exercise their best judgment as to the effective use of OSHA resources. The Field Inspection Reference Manual (FIRM) which replaced the Field Operations Manual (FOM) in 1994 states: "Effective and efficient use of resources requires careful, flexible planning. In this way, the overall goal of hazard abatement and worker protection is best served." (OSHA Instruction CPL 2.103, p. I-3)

Fatality/catastrophe investigations are second only to imminent danger situations in the general order of priority for assignment of staff resources for inspection categories under the FIRM. Nevertheless, the FIRM specifically provides that deviations from this priority list are allowed so long as they are justifiable, lead to efficient use of resources, and contribute to the effective protection of workers. (OSHA Instruction CPL 2.103, p. I-4.)

I am attaching, for your information, a copy of (OSHA Instruction 2.113, Fatality Inspection Procedures. You will find in the definitions of fatalities and catastrophes, that they must result from a "work-related exposure." This is also a determination that the Area Director must make in deciding when to investigate workplace violence fatalities and catastrophes. Many do not fall within this definition.

I hope that this answers your questions related to the investigation of workplace violence fatalities. As I mentioned, we are still in the process of developing policy in this area and will keep you informed as to any decisions we make. Thank you for your interest in this important issue.


John B. Miles, Jr.
Directorate of Compliance Programs