Homicide has consistently been one of the top four causes of work-related fatalities over the past decade, with an average of 590 incidents per year. Shockingly, in 2009, homicide was the leading cause of work-related death for women. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has addressed the hazard of workplace violence from time to time over the past fifteen years in various ways, including publication of specific guidelines for high-risk industries such as late-night retail, health care and social services. However, to date, there is no OSHA general industry standard addressing this serious hazard.
Although there is presently no OSHA general industry standard for preventing workplace violence, OSHA has cited some employers for failing to address serious known risks under Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act - also known as the "general duty clause." Basically, the general duty clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. Citations under the general duty clause may arise where an OSHA inspector discovers evidence that an employer knew (or should have known) of individual or industry-specific risks of violence and failed to take feasible steps to prevent or minimize them. Given the persistence of the problem, OSHA recently took another step toward developing a standard approach to the issue.
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