Fisher & Phillips’ Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., former head of OSHA, believes the agency’s role revolves around the kinds of advice that help employers prepare for and/or prevent safety and health threats to their employees. For example, OSHA’s workplace violence guidance, issued in 2004, focused on violence against healthcare and social service employees. The threat, the agency noted, comes mostly from patients/clients, who may be substance abusers or involved in gang disputes.
Here are notes from that guidance:
- Widely communicate the organization’s zero-tolerance policy against violence or threats. Prohibit “reprisals,” or retaliation, against employees who report threats or other violent behavior.
- By the same token, encourage employees to report such behavior promptly and to suggest measures they feel would make their workplaces safer.
- Plan and prepare for security for workers.
- Create a violence-prevention team of employees who have both related job responsibility and skills; provide them with training wherever it’s indicated.
- Display publicly a commitment from top management to prevent violence.
- Provide medical and/or counseling help to employees who have experienced or witnessed violence.
Other health-related topics on which OSHA has offered guidance include respiratory protection (2009 and 2011), mold protection for indoor workplaces (2006), and ergonomics for four different industries (2004, 2007, and 2008).
Related article: Tackle workplace violence with care