OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
With homicides now the second leading cause of death on the job, Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich today announced the first national guidelines to prevent assaults on workers.
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration focused its first guidelines on the health care and social services industries because their nearly 8 million workers experience a dramatically higher risk of fatal assault than other workers in private industry and nearly two-thirds of all nonfatal assaults. A set of guidelines to protect workers in the night retail industry will follow.
"It is a sad fact of life that workers who are dedicated to saving lives, too often find their own lives endangered," Reich said. "Health care and social service workers often face aggressive patients, visit clients' homes in dangerous neighborhoods, encounter violent situations in hospital emergency rooms or face other dangerous situations. But deaths and injuries are not inevitable. Employers can reduce the risks to their workers with some common-sense strategies."
The guidelines offer both policy recommendations and practical ideas employers can use to deter violence in the workplace, without jeopardizing compassionate care for clients and patients.
Joining Reich in announcing the guidelines were four victims of job-related violence who came to Washington to tell their stories. They included:
Marcia Stulbaum, a Long Island social worker who described a brutal attack by her patient 14 years ago that left her disabled;
Matthew Schultz, a worker at a facility for the mentally retarded who organized a city-wide assault network in Rochester, N.Y., after being stalked and assaulted by a patient;
Merida Rodriguez, a hospital aide who experienced a miscarriage after a violent patient attacked her; and
Donna Edwards, the president of a Baltimore union, who spoke for a member who was murdered by a client turned down for food stamps.
"We recognize that employers cannot prevent every possible violent act, but they can reduce the risk of death or injury to their employees by modifying the workplace and instituting appropriate administrative controls," Assistant Secretary of Labor Joseph A. Dear, who heads OSHA, said.
"When OSHA was created 25 years ago, no one imagined that violent individuals would pose the greatest safety and health threat to working women or the second highest risk to men on the job," Dear said. "But OSHA is changing with the times to provide employers the tools they need to protect their workers and prepare them to face the realities of the workplace."
The realities, according to the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey, are that between 1987 and 1992, approximately one million persons were assaulted each year at work. This includes more than 600,000 simple assaults, more than 250,000 aggravated assaults, nearly 80,000 robberies and more than 13,000 rapes.
The OSHA guidelines help employers who want to develop effective workplace violence prevention programs identify and prevent situations and settings with the potential for violence. A workplace violence prevention program should include the elements of any good safety and health program: management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control and training and education. Each prevention program also should include recordkeeping and evaluation.
The final violence prevention guidelines were developed with the assistance of many stakeholders, state agencies and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The guidelines were developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the request of the Inter-Union Workplace Physical Assault Coalition.
The guidelines include five appendices with a workplace violence checklist, sample incident report forms, an employee survey form and a sample policy for assisting assaulted employees. The guidelines also offer a listing of OSHA resources and addresses and an extensive bibliography and reference list.
Failure to implement the guidelines is not in itself a violation of the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. However, employers can be cited under that clause if violence is a recognized hazard in their establishments and they do nothing to prevent it.
Employers may seek help in developing a workplace violence prevention program from OSHA-sponsored free consultation services available in each state.
OSHA's "Guidelines for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs for Health Care and Social Service Workers" are available on the Internet at http://www.osha.gov under "What's New." This information also will be placed on an upcoming issue of the OSHA CD-ROM. Single printed copies are available by mail to requestors who send a self-addressed label to OSHA Publications, P.O. Box 37535, Washington, D.C. 20013-7535.
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