Organizations in the healthcare industry are likely already aware that all employers have a duty to take measures to ensure the safety of their employees. These organizations may also know that workplace violence is a safety risk that must be addressed. Nonetheless, it is important for health care employers to be aware of the specific workplace violence concerns that are unique to the healthcare industry and how to avoid legal consequences that can result if an employer fails to adequately address these concerns. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) provides that all employers have a general duty to provide employees with a workplace “free from recognized hazards … that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to employees. A recent directive published by OSHA in September 2011 for the first time details the application of this “general duty clause” to workplace violence incidents. Notably, the directive narrows its scope to industries considered “vulnerable” to workplace violence and identifies healthcare and social services employers as a focus industry.
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