By: Daniel Burke and Tommy Rogers*
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening or disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It may range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.
OSHA released a standard interpretation letter dated on May 17, 2023 that addresses when employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs on-the-job injuries and deaths caused by violent acts.
In the letter’s scenario, the employee was driving a company vehicle, on the clock, and traveling on a public roadway. The driver was traveling between service calls near an intersection when a collision occurred as the result of another car coming from the wrong direction in the same lane. After the incident occurred, the wrong-way motorist exited his car, shot the employee, stole the employee’s truck, and fled the scene. The question presented to OSHA was whether the shooting injury sustained by the employee was “work-related” and therefore had to be recorded in the OSHA 300 log.
OSHA said that the work-relatedness of an incident is usually established by the fact that an assault occurred because the employee, as a condition of their job, was in the location where they were attacked. The agency stated that, “OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation does not allow employers to exclude injuries and illnesses resulting from random acts of violence occurring in the work environment from their recordkeeping forms.”
In other words, if it happens at a job site or while the employee is traveling for the employer, even if it is totally unforeseeable, it will likely be considered work-related by OSHA and thus recordable. However, it is important to note that simply listing a work-related injury or fatality does not mean the employer was at fault.
What Should an Employer Do?
First, update the company’s practices and trainings to assure that the company is properly recording, for OSHA purposes, injuries or illnesses arising from workplace violence.
Second, in most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections employers can offer is a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come into contact with company personnel. It can be a separate workplace violence prevention program or incorporated into a safety and health program, employee handbook, or manual of standard operating procedures. It is critical to ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
Bricker Graydon’s Labor & Employment attorneys are here to assist with any questions or concerns you have regarding with workplace violence and other employment laws.