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Workplace safety efforts should include violence prevention

2012 was a terrible year for shootings in the U.S. Many of them involved multiple fatalities. Though they occurred in various states and settings, many shootings were in workplaces. It is worth asking, then, what additional steps employers should be taking to prevent workplace violence.

A University of Maryland professor is among the national experts who are investigating ways to make workplaces safer from violence. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hired Jane Lipscomb, a professor at nursing school, as a consultant last year after six people were shot at a psychiatric clinic in Pittsburgh.

Prof. Lipscomb found that patient safety had been a priority at the clinic. But employee safety wasn't. In the incident under investigation, one employee was killed and five were injured.

The unacceptable truth is that far too many employers find it easy to neglect employee safety. This is not only reflected in lack of safety precautions that can help prevent violent attacks. It is also reflected in lack of attention to safety across the board.

The more that an employer fails to maintain safety standards, the higher the risk becomes of injuries to employees. Workers' compensation exists to help employees who suffer such injuries. Workers' comp does this, first of all, by creating procedures for medical expense reimbursement. It is also designed to address replacement of lost wages and opportunities for any rehabilitation needed for an employee to get back to work.

In short, workplace safety is important, and when it is lacking there are consequences. As the nation moves into a new year, employers and government regulators should make sure that violence prevention in the workplace receives the attention it deserves.

Source: "Employee Safety Neglected Prior to Clinic Shooting, Consultant Reports," Occupational Safety & Health, 1-4-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Baltimore workplace injuries page.

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