Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at a worksite.  There is no particular geography or organization that is immune to workplace violence or an active shooter situation and because of that, the state of readiness of everyone involved is increasingly important.  According to a recent FBI statistic, 60% of active shooter incidents happen in five minutes or less.  This means the response gap, or the time it takes from when the first shot occurs to when the first law enforcement shows up, is critical to the safety and survival of everyone at the scene.  Bystander intervention and civilian response can and should play a significant role in these situations.

Workplace Violence is Increasing

Although a drop in crime in general communities occurred, statistics show the rates of workplace violence in healthcare and human services increased.  Workers in these fields are more than four times as likely to be attacked or assaulted on the job, or become victims of workplace violence, than any other industry.  These can include workers at psychiatric facilities, emergency departments, community mental health clinics, treatment clinics for substance abuse disorders, pharmacies etc.  Professions affected include physicians, registered nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, nurses’ aides, therapists, technicians, public health nurses, home healthcare workers, social and welfare workers, security personnel, maintenance personnel and emergency medical care personnel.

Workplace violence in health care and human services industries accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined.  Some of this is due to working directly with people who have a history of violence, are delirious, or under the influence of drugs.  The specific risk factor each worker faces depends on the type and location of health care.  Some risk factors include, but are not limited to, transporting patients and clients, working alone in patient’s homes, poorly lit corridors, rooms, and parking lots, high work turnover, and lack of facility policies.

OSHA is Addresses Workplace Violence

This is where OSHA comes in. As of now, OSHA has no workplace violence regulation in place.  However, there is a real push within OSHA to implement the first workplace violence prevention guidelines.  Since December, subject to current administration, there has been a strong new force pushing for the first workplace violence regulation focused on health care and human services workers.  OSHA is considering whether a standard is needed to protect healthcare and social assistance employees from workplace violence perpetrated by patients or clients, and is interested in obtaining information about the extent and nature of workplace violence in the industry and the nature and effectiveness of interventions and control used to prevent such violence.

In order to chart the best course going forward and inform OSHA’s approach to this hazard, OSHA has posed a number of detailed questions for comment throughout the request for information. To make the best decisions about OSHA’s next steps in this area, the questions posed are designed to better elucidate these general subjects:

  • The scope of the problem in healthcare and social assistance–frequency of incidents of workplace violence, where those incidents most commonly occur, and who is most often the victim in those incidents
  • The common risk factors that could be addressed
  • Interventions and controls that data show are working already in the field
  • The efficacy, feasibility and cost of different options

Our Featured Topic Page on Workplace Violence provides several resources and information about how Everbridge can help prevent or mitigate an incident.