Putting the Cuffs on Workplace Violence
An important new guideline from ASIS International identifies OSH professionals as key stakeholders.
- By Jerry Laws
- Oct 01, 2005
BY the time you read this, the final ASIS International Workplace Violence
Prevention and Response Guideline should be printed and available free online.
Rebecca A. Speer, co-chair of the guideline's committee and founder of San
Francisco law firm Speer Associates, said this process-oriented document should
give employers vital implementation guidance.
It also will empower supervisors to ask for help and obtain it, said Speer.
Problematic or threatening behaviors just don't trickle up the ranks, she said,
because managements typically deny or minimize the problem and the threat level.
"The biggest piece is education," she said. "We don't want people to be
fear-driven, but to recognize that behaviors can be a threat to safety. . . .
You really need to nip the threat in the bud."
The standard itself identifies OSH professionals as key stakeholders--along
with security personnel, HR, legal, managers, and others--for addressing the
workplace violence problem. It also identifies the Occupational Safety and
Health Act, OSHA's founding law, as the crux of employers' obligation to protect
workers from violence.
This was a whirlwind project, with the committee releasing a 61-page draft
June 9 after work began in earnest in late March. Only 25 to 30 "very
complimentary" comments had arrived by the eve of the comment deadline. "I was
pleased about that, which shows that we did it right, right out of the chute,"
Speer said. Kathy Woods, the ASIS guidelines and standards manager, said some
commenters wanted more text about mediation. Good suggestions were made about
Employee Assistance Programs, Woods said.
It's easy to say workplace violence is "somebody else's problem." This new
guideline proves otherwise, saying non-fatal violence at work affects an
estimated 1.7 million employees annually, with the highest rates of violence
occurring in law enforcement, retail sales, and medical settings. Citing a NIOSH
estimate, it says the average cost of a workplace homicide is $800,000, and the
total cost of workplace homicides from 1991 to 2001 was nearly $6.5 billion.
The draft was posted at www.asisonline.org/guidelines/guidelines.htm. Other
ASIS guidelines in progress at this writing include a pre-employment background
screening guideline and a physical security measures guideline.
This editor's note appeared in the October 2005 issue of Occupational
Health & Safety.
This article originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.