On December 7, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input for a possible future safety standard intended to reduce employee exposure to workplace violence. OSHA will hold a public meeting on January 10 to solicit information on the need for a specific rulemaking covering violence in the healthcare and social assistance industries. Although OSHA announced this initiative some time ago, the RFI represents the first concrete step in the rulemaking process.
OSHA itself may not be certain over what a workplace violence safety standard would include. The agency’s initial expression of interest in the topic focused on employee exposure to criminal conduct such as robbery, or hospital employees injured by violent patients. These examples just begin to scratch the surface of this issue. Other sources of workplace violence include co-worker assaults, spillover effects of domestic violence situations or retail employees caught in holiday shopping “stampedes.”
OSHA may have a difficult time reducing these various concerns to a single set of requirements for affected employers. These requirements could include things like mandatory safety and security precautions, written violence prevention plans and disciplinary consequences for employees who engage in violent behavior in the workplace.
Undoubtedly, any national safety standard addressing workplace violence will take considerable time to develop and promulgate. The RFI and public meetings should give the first indications of OSHA’s approach to this issue.