Compliance Plan

Workplace Violence: A 12 Step Gameplan

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: October 22nd, 2014
Topics: Workplace Violence |

Workplace Violence: A 12 Step Compliance Plan


lthough OSHA requires employers to protect workers from workplace violence, the actual rules can be confusing. Here’s an overview of the requirements and the measures you must implement to comply with them.


Unlike certain states such as California, OSHA has no OSHA standard for workplace violence. The duty to prevent workplace violence stems from the so called General Duty Clause (GDC), i.e., Sec. 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to protect workers from “recognized hazards” not specifically covered in one of the standards.  Over the years, OSHA has made it very clear that violence may be deemed a “recognized hazard,” especially in high risk industries like mental healthcare, social services, retail and other businesses involving direct contact with the public.


There are 12 basic steps to take to comply with OSHA Recordkeeping rules:

Step 1: Perform a Workplace Violence Hazard Assessment

The workplace violence hazard assessment must be carried out by a suitable person—who can come from either inside or outside—and involve the following 5 phases:

Step 2: Publish a Workplace Violence Policy Statement

The next phase is to establish a workplace violence prevention program to address any violence hazards you identify in your assessment. The first step in implementing a prevention program is for management to issue an appropriate written workplace violence policy statement that:

  • Expresses the company’s recognition of the harmful effects of violence;
  • Recognizes and the rights of workers to work in an environment that’s physically and emotionally healthy;
  •  Expresses the company’s commitment to invest the resources necessary to protect all workers from violence at work;
  • Defines what the company means by workplace violence;
  • Outlines the measures of your company’s workplace violence prevention program;
  • Explains the responsibilities of different groups for carrying out the Program, including, management, supervisors, security personnel and workers;
  •  Reassures employees of their right to report incidents or threats of violence without reprisal or retaliation; and
  • Clearly states that acts or threats of violence will not be tolerated and that those who author them will be held accountable and face discipline up to and including termination even for a first offense.
Step 3: Implement Physical & Engineering Controls

As with other hazards, the preferred way to deal with violence is, if feasible, to use physical controls to either engineer them away or significantly reduce their risk of occurrence. Such solutions might include:

  • Bullet-proof glass partitions, fences and other physical barriers;
  • Locks or buzzer systems on doors;
  • Remote communication devices that eliminate the need for an employee to be physically present;
  • Security cameras;
  • Alarm systems, panic buttons and other signaling devices; and
  • Curved mirrors in hallways or concealed areas.
Step 4: Implement Safe Work Procedures

If total elimination of tasks involving risks of violence isn’t feasible, you should establish safe work procedures for performing them. Examples would include procedures for:

Step 5: Implement Work & Other Administrative Controls

Other work and other administrative controls for performing work that involves risks of violence may include:

  • ID cards and systems;
  • Buddy systems;
  • Emergency procedures for responding to threats and acts of violence;
  • Use of drop safes to limit cashier’s access to cash;
  • Regular check-in procedures for workers who work alone;
  • Banning large bill transactions; and
  • Regular security checks and sweeps.
Step 6: Ensure Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE and safety equipment for workers exposed to violence hazards may include bullet proof vests, emergency communications equipment and even the issuance of firearms.

Step 7: Establish Procedures for Workers to Report Violence, Call for Help & Summon Emergency Response

There must be procedures workers can use to summon immediate help when workplace violence occurs or is likely to occur. All workers should be aware of the procedures and prepared to follow them. There should also be a way for workers to report if they’re the victim or a witness to acts or threats of violence. In addition, you need a  non-retaliation policy or statement that reassures workers that they won’t be fired or punished for reporting incidents of violence.

Step 8: Establish Procedures to Investigate & Resolve Violence Incidents/Complaints

Make sure you have adequate procedures in place for investigating reports of workplace violence and resolving situations of violence. You also need to provide appropriate support to workers who are the victims of workplace violence or threats, including recommending that they consult a health professional available) for referral or treatment if they suffer any injuries or adverse symptoms as a result of the reported violence.

Step 9: Discipline Workers for Engaging in Acts or Threats of Violence

You must have and properly implement a workplace violence disciplinary policy.

Step 10: Deliver Workplace Violence Training

Appropriate workplace violence training and instruction must be provided to workers who are at risk of violence before they encounter such risks, including:

  • To all new workers at risk as part of their general safety orientation;
  •  At least once a year—or more often if the job and nature of the hazard warrants it;
  • When there are significant changes to the risks they encounter;
  • When you make significant changes to your workplace violence program;
  • After their duties change in a way that affects their exposure to risks of violence, e.g., a daytime worker is assigned to the night shift; and
  • After incidents or in response to any indications that workers didn’t understand their previous training or that such training isn’t adequate to protect them from the hazards they currently face.

Workplace violence safety training must provide all the information and instruction workers need to work safely, including

  • The hazards of workplace violence to which the worker is exposed;
  • What the worker should do to protect himself/herself from those hazards; and
  • The provisions of your workplace violence prevention program and measures in place to protect them, including:
    •  How to call for immediate help;
    • How to report incidents or threats of violence to company officials;
    • How to deal with violent or potentially violent people to the extent they’re at risk of confronting such people on the job; and
    • How your company investigates and deals with incidents, threats or complaints of violence.
Step 11: Keep Written Records of Workplace Violence Training

Make sure you keep written records documenting the workplace violence training provided to each worker.

Step 12: Monitor the Effectiveness of Your Workplace Violence Prevention Program

Designate one or more competent persons to review the effectiveness of the measures and procedures set out in your Workplace Violence Prevention Program at appropriate intervals. You should review your Program at least once a year and whenever:

  • A reassessment of hazards indicates that revisions are necessary;
  • Workers, the health and safety committee or others indicate that current measures and procedures are inadequate;
  • A violent incident shows that current measures and procedures are inadequate; or
  • Any other indications arise suggesting that current measures and procedures are inadequate.

Records you should use to evaluate the effectiveness of your Program include:

  • Workplace inspection reports;
  • Worker reports;
  • Records of investigations into workplace violence incidents or threats;
  • Workplace health and safety evaluations;
  • Data on violence in the workplace;
  • Data on violence in similar workplaces;
  • Police crime data on violence in the area or neighborhood your workplace is located; and
  • Observations of workers and your health and safety committee.