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A Better Partnership

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Apr 2021
16
April 16, 2021

Role of Employers in Safeguarding Against Workplace Violence

Within the last few weeks, multiple mass shootings have occurred in the United States. With an increased focus on these incidents, employers may be wondering what their obligations are under occupational safety and health laws to protect their employees from workplace violence. Currently, no federal or Michigan occupational safety and health standard regulates the methods to protect employees from workplace shootings. At most, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance on how to best mitigate employees’ exposure to workplace violence. That guidance can be found here. Among other information included in the guidance, OSHA outlines factors that may increase the risk of workplace violence to include, without limitation: 

  • Exchanging money with the public.

  • Working with volatile, unstable people.

  • Working late at night or in areas with high crime rates. 

Even absent a safety and health standard that directly addresses this issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its Michigan counterpart contain a “General Duty” Clause, which covers most private sector employers. The General Duty Clause requires employers to provide their employees employment and a place of employment that is “Free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause [their employees] death or serious physical harm.” Notably, employers have been cited under the Clause for inadequate workplace violence standards. 

In light of employers’ potential obligations under the General Duty Clause, employers may want to consider developing protocols that address potential workplace violence. These protocols may include, among other items, workplace violence prevention plans, active shooter response policies and other policies and protocols that proactively address threatening behavior occurring in the workplace. In addition, employers should make sure employees are properly trained on these protocols. 

If you have any questions on how to best protect your employees from workplace violence, please contact Karen VanderWerff, DeAndre’ Harris or any member of Warner’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

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