June 15, 2023

Report Outlines Findings of OSHA Panel on Potential Workplace Violence Standard

A potential OSHA rulemaking on workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance would address risk factors such as a lack of facility policies and training to help workers recognize and manage escalating hostile behaviors of patients, clients, visitors, or staff, according to a report from the agency’s Small Business Advocacy Review panel. Other factors OSHA will focus on include working alone in a facility or in a patient’s home; lack of means to communicate in an emergency; and poor environmental design of workplaces, including elements that may interfere with workers’ escape from a violent incident.

Convened in March to receive input from representatives of small businesses that would potentially be affected by such a standard, the panel is required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, or SBREFA. Panel participants included representatives from hospitals, addiction recovery and behavioral health services, emergency medical services, home healthcare and field-based social assistance services, and long-term care and assisted living. The final SBREFA report explains OSHA’s reasons for considering the potential standard, summarizes the comments of panel representatives, and describes the panel’s findings.

“OSHA’s draft regulatory framework addresses, and aims to reduce, the prevalence and the severity of [workplace violence] in the healthcare and social assistance sector,” the report explains. “For this potential standard, OSHA focuses solely on type II [workplace violence], which are violent acts committed by patients, clients, and visitors upon workers.”

According to the report, key issues raised during the panel include the effectiveness of workplace violence prevention programs, practices for multi-employer work sites, and the importance of training on workplace violence. Panel representatives also discussed concerns with OSHA’s draft regulatory framework related to engineering controls, with some representatives commenting that certain controls mentioned in the framework could not be used or “would be counter to the standard of care in their facility.” For example, cameras are prohibited in many areas of healthcare facilities for privacy reasons, and barriers in a memory care setting could distress patients. Other representatives added that they would like to see more guidance in the draft regulatory framework regarding personal protective equipment requirements and how PPE use should be implemented.

OSHA is accepting comments on the final panel report (PDF) and other materials related to its potential workplace violence standard through July 3. Further information can be found on the agency’s workplace violence SBREFA webpage.

Related: A Synergist article published in May 2023 focuses on workplace violence and occupational homicide, and an article from December 2018 discusses strategies for preventing workplace violence. Another Synergist article from 2019 describes the challenges of protecting home healthcare aids.