OSHA Issues New Workplace Violence Prevention Guidelines for Healthcare and Social Service Workers

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently released updated Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers. The first update in more than a decade, the Guidelines provide specific recommendations for five categories of healthcare and social service settings: hospitals, residential treatment facilities, non-residential treatment facilities, community care facilities, and field work settings.

  • For each of these settings, OSHA recommends that employers create and implement a violence prevention program, starting with a thorough worksite analysis to identify areas of risk. According to OSHA, that analysis should involve an analysis of available medical, safety, workers’ compensation, insurance, and security records to identify patterns of assaults and “near misses,” a job hazard analysis to determine hazards associated with particular tasks or positions, and employee surveys.
  • Once that analysis is complete, OSHA recommends taking action to prevent or control the identified hazards by determining control options, selecting effective and feasible control measures, implementing those measures, following-up to make sure that the controls are being used, and then evaluating their effectiveness over time to identify the need for any further control measures or changes. Depending on the setting, such controls may include physical changes to the work environment, like new or improved barriers, security guards, better lighting, and panic buttons; changes to the manner in which employees communicate and perform certain tasks, particularly when interacting with patients; and policy changes, including changes to check-in procedures, reporting requirements, dress codes, and transportation procedures.
  • OSHA also recommends implementing thorough post-incident procedures to make sure that incidents are properly investigated, documented, and evaluated, and that victims and witnesses receive the medical and psychological treatment they may need.
  • Finally, OSHA recommends ongoing training for all workers, robust recordkeeping, and regular program evaluations.
    To assist employers who are interested in following OSHA’s guidance, the Guidelines include detailed checklists employers can use to help them complete their worksite analysis and program evaluation. The Guidelines are available here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3148.pdf

    For additional information, contact any of the attorneys at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.

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