All employers have a legal duty to prevent violence in their workplaces either under OSHA or other laws. (Click here for an explanation of which laws require employers to prevent workplace violence.) And the burden of ensuring the company’s compliance with this duty often falls to the safety coordinator. Here’s how to carry out one of the key compliance steps: effectively assessing the risk of violence in your workplace by getting critical information from your supervisors. (Click here for a Model Supervisor Violence Survey that you can adapt for use at your own workplace.)
Conducting a Workplace Violence Risk Assessment
Although OSHA doesn’t have a specific workplace violence standard, Best Practices and requirements of other jurisdictions dictate that it be carried out and that it address the following:
Survey Supervisors as Part of Assessment
The purpose of a violence risk assessment is to identify which workers may be at risk of violence, the kinds of violence they may face and the degree of risk. It also enables you to determine whether control measures are in place to address this risk and, if so, whether these measures are adequate.
After you conduct an initial assessment of the workplace, you should regularly review the assessment at least once a year. You should also review your assessment when and if circumstances change in case the risk of violence has increased. And you should review it if a violent incident occurs.
A key aspect of the assessment is getting information from your supervisors. After all, they’re on the front lines and have the best perspective on the likelihood of violence in the workplace. An effective and efficient way to get this information is to have each of them complete a survey that asks them about key factors indicating the potential for workplace violence. (Click here for a Model Supervisor Violence Survey that you can adapt for use at your own workplace.)The survey includes:
You should also get information from workers on their experience with workplace violence. (Click here for a Model Workers’ Survey that you can adapt.)
It’s crucial that you assess your workplace’s risk of violence and then take the necessary steps to address that risk. And if ensuring the safety of workers isn’t enough motivation, taking steps to prevent violence is critical to protecting your company against liability. After all, the statistics indicate that incidents of workplace violence are increasing. So it’s likely that at some point, your workplace may experience such an incident. If it does, your company will need to be able show that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the incident from happening.