OSHA Intimidation & Verbal Abuse

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Workplace violence poses a serious threat to employees. If an employee or client becomes aggressive, he might physically lash out at others; there have been incidents where an employee, client or former employee returned to a place of business with a weapon. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, sets guidelines for preventing workplace violence that employers must follow. OSHA's guidelines address verbal abuse and intimidation as well as physical violence; employers must respond to these behaviors to stop them from escalating.

Violence Prevention Programs

As of June 2011, OSHA requires workplaces to include verbal abuse and intimidation in violence prevention efforts. Most companies must have a written policy in place describing how they will attempt to prevent negative behaviors, including verbal abuse and intimidation, as well as what disciplinary measures they will take against employees who engage in this type of behavior. Small companies do not have to have a written policy in place but must discipline employees who engage in verbal abuse or intimidation.

Contingency Plans

Employers should create contingency plans to help employees handle emergencies involving clients, including incidents where clients lose their tempers and become aggressive, verbally abusive or intimidating. Employees must have recourse if they face this situation, including deferring communication with the client to a manager or getting help from a social worker who is trained to diffuse anger. The employee should fill out an incident report after getting away from the potentially violent client.

Tracking

As part of their violence prevention efforts, OSHA recommends that employers keep track of incidents in which either employees or clients act out violently. The log should include incidents in which a client or employee is verbally abusive, aggressive or attempts to intimidate others. Employers should respond to these incidents and record in the log what they did to diffuse the situation, such as get the verbally abusive person away from others, discipline a verbally abusive person or call for help.

Confidentiality

The employer's violence prevention log should be kept confidential except for any information other employees or law enforcement agencies need to know. Keep disciplinary action or other responses between the verbally abusive person and the employer unless an employee or client poses a threat that others need to know about. Keep the log in the employer's office or in a locked filing cabinet where unauthorized persons cannot access it.

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