Safety Engineers, OSHA and Others Partner to Address Workplace Violence

In 2007, workplace homicides in the United States increased by 13 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Pensacola chapter is partnering with OSHA and several major organizations to "reduce and prevent exposure to workplace violence" in Florida.

OSHA, ASSE, EAP Lifestyle Management, LLC., Sacred Heart Health System Inc., Employee Assistance Professional (EAP) Association Big Bend Chapter, Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, University of South Florida Consultation Program, the Northwest Florida Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., EAP Lifestyle Management, LLC., Sacred Heart Health System, Inc., have formalized an alliance to provide workers from all industries with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help protect employees' health and safety, particularly in reducing and preventing exposure to workplace violence.

"We look forward to working with OSHA, the alliance partners, our ASSE members, employers and communities throughout the greater Pensacola area in raising awareness of this major issue and working to prevent any future injuries or fatalities," said Maralee Sartain, ASSE Pensacola chapter president.

"I am especially pleased that we can come together like this to not only recognize that this is a major issue, but to continue to work together as a team to help employers and employees recognize that there are ways they can address this issue," James D. Borders, OSHA area director for the Jacksonville Area Office said today.

According to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) studies, it is estimated that each year, nearly 355,000 establishments or 5 percent of all workplaces will experience a workplace violence episode. This study showed that between 1993 and 1999, incidents ranged from homicides (approximately 900 annually) to simple assaults (approximately 1.3 million incidents annually. Only about 8.8 percent of businesses have a workplace violence prevention program, according to the BLS.

An ASSE Workplace Violence Survey of ASSE members and a White Paper done by the ASSE Risk Management and Insurance (RM/I) Practice Specialty found that many companies and organizations in all industries had yet to address the problem of workplace violence. Noting that one size does not fit all, the ASSE RM/I members suggested employers consider doing the following to address the prevention of workplace violence:

Officers and directors – establish a workplace violence prevention policy; upper management must promote a clear antiviolence corporate policy; and establish and maintain security policies.

Human resource managers – Examine and improve hiring practices; implement prescreening techniques; utilize background checks; encourage employees to report threats or violent behavior; establish termination policies; and provide post-termination counseling.

Risk management and safety, health and environmental departments – Train all employees in the warning signs of aggressive or violent behavior; train management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques; conduct a formal workplace violence risk assessment; increase security as needed; develop and communicate a contingency plan to all employees which includes crisis management; review insurance coverage and verify coverage and exclusions; and identify a defensive strategy.

Alliance members will work with OSHA to provide expertise to develop training and education programs for employers on workplace violence issues and to provide expertise in communicating such information to all employers and employees. Members also promise to deliver and/or arrange for the delivery of training on workplace violence prevention and follow-up.

The alliance members will be available to speak, exhibit or appear at participating organizations' conference meetings or other events to discuss the issue along with promoting a national dialogue on workplace violence through participating in forums, round table discussions, and stakeholder meetings on workplace violence problems to help forge innovative solutions.

For more information on workplace violence, read The Dos and Don'ts of Laying Off Employees (http://ehstoday.com/safety/ehs_imp_81736/index.html) and Preventing Workplace Violence (http://ehstoday.com/safety/ehs_imp_80348/index.html).

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