Rears Its Ugly Head
Types of Workplace Violence
Statistically certain occupations and positions are exposed to an increased risk of violence:
Overall there are three main categories of workplace violence:
1. Violence inflicted by unknown third persons or strangers who enter the workplace to commit a crime, such as sexual assault, robbery or murder.
2. Violence that is committed by individuals who have a business relationship with the employer, such as current or former customers, suppliers, patients or clients.
3. Violence committed by someone the employee knows personally, such as a coworker, disgruntled former or current employee or a domestic abuser.
Some Trends in Prevention Measures
Two areas we will examine are
1. New Law Protects Health Care Employees
In Washington State Chapter 377 (House bill 5312) protects health care employees from violence by requiring employers to size up the potential for violence in their workplaces, develop plans to prevent it, and offer annual worker training.
Employers affected are: hospitals, mental health evaluation and treatment facilities, community mental health programs, and home health, hospice and home care agencies. Employers who are not affected are long-term care facilities, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals.
Requirements of the new law are as follows. By July 1, 2000, affected employers must assess their existing or potential hazards for violence by looking back at the frequency, causes, and results of violent acts over the past five years. They are also required to develop plans to prevent and protect employees from violence. And finally, by July 1, 2001, and regularly thereafter, employers must provide violence prevention training to all their employees within 90 days of hire, unless the employee is temporary, in which case the training should be fitted to the situation.
The penalty for violations will be citations from the Department of Labor and Industries, under the state Industrial Safety and Health Act.
The trend to require employers into accepting responsibility in this area will continue. Watch for further expansion of OSHA/WSHA proposed regulation.
2. USPS fights back against the trend of "going postal".
The United States Postal Service is addressing violence on several fronts, and their efforts have led to a decline in threats and assaults of 28 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from highs in 1995.
Here are some of the areas they have taken action in:
The Postal Service has also implemented a "soft exit program" to provide managers with a support system when they have to fire an employee, as well as a threat assessment team, which includes HR managers, labor relations representatives, and district managers.