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Workplace violence prevention: Maryland case shows need for plan

Violence prevention is a crucial part of workplace safety. And employers' responsibilities to create reasonable plans to reduce risks of harm extend beyond the walls of the workplace to other locations where work is performed.

A recent Maryland case is a vivid reminder of this.

Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a citation against a Maryland healthcare company after an employee was stabbed to death. The fatal attack occurred not in a clinic or hospital, but at the home of a patient who was receiving an assessment there from a company employee.

OSHA's acting regional administer said the attack would have been prevented if the company had fulfilled its duty to put in place a viable workplace prevention program. Such a program requires the creation of a comprehensive written plan to identify and respond to hazards. It also provides assistance for employees when concerns about safety arise.

In the fatal stabbing case, the patient who attacked the healthcare workers was known to have a history of violence. And the employee had expressed concerns about that. And yet she was killed while doing her job after the employer failed to take action to address the employee's concerns.

A case like this shows that workplace safety regulations and worker's compensation laws must be seen in a larger context. That larger context is the creation of a workplace culture in which all aspects of safety are honored - including violence prevention.

To be sure, employers cannot control all risks for employees. But employers must do what they can by putting in place plans to manage those risks.

Source: "Occupational Health & Safety, "Maryland Company Cited for Workplace Violence Hazards after Stabbing," June 11, 2013

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