Standards Board Taking Strong Stance Against Violence
Article by Hector Alvarez, Founder of Alvarez Associates
As a society, we have all witnessed the tragic incidents of violence that have occurred recently in our workplaces, schools, places of worship and communities. For those who have been given the enormous responsibility of developing and managing safety programs the pressure to do something is almost palpable. The actual rate of increase of violence, if any, is not the focus of this article. The reality is that there is a significant awareness that a serious problem exists and a lot of focus has been placed on preventing violence in our workplaces; perception is our reality. The million dollar question is what can be done to prevent, and protect our workplaces from the next violent incident.
In California, the Department of Industrial Relations and the Legislature have taken on the challenge head first. Three separate petitions have been filed, and accepted, by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board that specifically call for new violence prevention standards to be developed, Petitions 538, 539 and 542. The first two were submitted by unions representing California nurses, the last was submitted by a teacher that was assaulted in her class. It must be noted that in accepting Petition 542 the committee stated that consideration should be giving to expanding the standards development to ALL California workplaces. The legislature also passed and is now moving forward with implementation of SB 1299, codified as Labor Code Section 6401.8 (Healthcare specific) with a deadline for action by July 2016.
What does this all mean? Regardless of the outcome of the standards development process, at a minimum there will be a new Cal/OSHA standard for most healthcare facilities by July 1, 2016. It’s also highly probable that within a short time frame thereafter this will be expanded to ALL California workplaces. What this means is that there will be much more specific guidance, and compliance requirements, that must be met by California business. Also, overarching these efforts is the General Duty Clause. Given the increased focus Cal/OSHA has placed on violence prevention, it’s much more likely that even absent a new standard, the General Duty Clause would be leveraged during investigations of violent incidents.
Now is the time to get ahead of these efforts by developing and implementing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. It’s not enough to simply write a policy and add language to your Injury and Illness Prevention Plan.
Mr. Alvarez is the founder of Alvarez Associates, a security risk management firm specializing in workplace violence prevention. Having been both a security director for a major national critical infrastructure and a city police officer, he has built over 25 years of experience in the field of violence prevention. He understands the challenges organizations and communities face addressing the threat of violence. Hector has the privilege of working with organizations, both corporate and community based, to build safer communities through keynote speeches, workshops, security assessments, trainings and behavioral threat assessments. www.workviolenceprevention.com