Workplace violence is gaining more attention in recent years, partially due to the increase in violence against healthcare workers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not currently mandate workplace violence prevention on the federal level, local and sector specific legislation is beginning to appear. California is one of the states that are leading the way for workplace violence prevention law.
In 2017, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) adopted standards for workplace violence prevention in the health care setting. This legislation paved the way for the federal Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting the Senate’s vote.
In addition, Cal/OSHA released a revised discussion draft for the proposed regulation for workplace violence prevention in the general industry standards on May 17, 2022. While the proposed regulation would only apply to California, it has the potential to serve as a model for future regulation of workplace violence prevention on a broader scale. The following will discuss these revisions, as reported in the SHRM article, “Cal/OSHA Proposed Revisions to Workplace Violence Prevention Requirements,” by Ursula L. Clemons.
The revised draft omits the definitions of “Chief,” “Division,” and “union representative,” and includes changes to the following definitions.
Threat of violence: The revised definition no longer solely refers to a threat of physical injury. Instead, the term refers to “a statement or conduct that causes a person to fear for their safety because there is a reasonable possibility the person might be injured, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”
Workplace violence: In the revised draft, “workplace violence” is defined as “any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment.” The revised definition also includes an exception for “lawful acts of self-defense or defense of others, or self-inflicted harm that does involve violence or threats of violence to others.” We would think that the exception would be when the self-inflicted violence does not involve others, perhaps pointing to a typo in the draft.
Workplace Violence Prevention Plans
The revised draft includes a broader definition of representative to include “authorized employee representatives,” as opposed to only union representatives. With this in place, the regulation indicates that employers must involve employees and “authorized employee representative” in developing and implementing workplace violence prevention plans. It also states that workplace violence prevention plans must be in writing and available to employees and “authorized employee representatives.”
In addition to the above changes, the revised draft indicates that employers are required to review their workplace violence prevention plans after any “workplace violence incident,” as opposed to a “workplace violence incident that results in an injury.” Employers are also required to include “Methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the Plan with other employers when applicable,” as well as procedures for responding to workplace violence emergencies.
Violence Incident Logs
The revised draft indicates that employers are required to record all workplace violence incidents, not just those resulting in injury. That said, the revision omits the requirement to document the post-incident response and investigation in the log. Due to other minor revisions, it will no longer be necessary for employers to indicate the following:
- Time lost from work
- Whether medical treatment was provided
- Whether assistance was provided to end the incident
- The “specific” location of the incident*
*Note that employers will still be required to include a general location.
The revised draft of the proposed regulation states, “The employer shall provide employees with general awareness training on workplace violence that includes: the employer’s Plan, how to obtain a copy of the employer’s Plan, how to participate in the development and implementation of the employer’s Plan, the definition and requirements in this section, and how to report workplace violence incidents or concerns to the employer without fear of reprisal.”
The revised draft also includes several additional requirements for employers who had an incident of workplace violence within the last five years. Notably, employers in this situation are required to inform employees of “how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm.”
While the rules and regulations are not finalized, they provide employers with ideas of how to prevent workplace violence. Whether or not you are legally obligated to create a workplace violence prevention plan, it is a worthwhile endeavor for the wellbeing of your organization as a whole. Including workplace violence prevention in occupational health and safety protocol creates a safer workplace.
Workplace violence sometimes follows perceived or real harassment. Learn to recognize it here.