Workplace violence is a risk at any health care workplace. Whether from patients, residents, clients, or employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) estimates that three quarters of all workplace assaults reported annually – approximately 19,000 – occurred in health care and social service settings.
While OSHA does not have any specific regulations addressing violence in the workplace, OSHA’s General Duty Clause applies to covered employers and requires they provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” It is OSHA’s position that the General Duty Clause imposes a legal obligation upon an employer to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities “that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard.”
In recent years, OSHA has published guidelines to the health care community – Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers – with specific recommendations to prevent violence in health care workplaces. OSHA also has a webpage dedicated to workplace violence, which provides helpful guidance and training materials.
In an effort to further assist health care organizations better prevent and address violence in their workplaces, in April the Joint Commission released a Sentinel Event Alert addressing physical and verbal violence against health care workers. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States.