The OSHA General Duty Clause and Workplace Violence Prevention

Posted on: February 4th, 2015

In this Blog Dr. Mike (Mike Atwater, Ph.D)  shares a perspective on the role of the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (OSHA) General Duty Clause and workplace violence prevention. He and Felix collaborate in a small way to help keep the dialogue going in bridging the gap of awareness and responsibility.

“We recognize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and invoke the need to be proactive rather reactive” in containing all costs.

The effort put forth in investing in “prevention” can enhance the outcome and reduce the negative impact of poor planning.  While we are not suggesting that using other people’s data is representative of what can happen at your workplace (school, college, university or healthcare setting), it is our desire to create urgency in understanding the impact to your workplace and workforce your employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers. According to OSHA’s fact sheet,Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can occur at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.

Furthermore, domestic violence is the number one cause for emergency room visits by women in the United States, causing more injuries to women than car accidents, muggings, and rapes. Like other forms of violence, domestic violence may spill over into the workplace in various ways. Of all employed battered women, 96 percent experience problems at work and 75 percent must use work time to deal with their situation because they cannot do so at home.

“As a licensed clinical psychologist practicing for over 30 years in Florida”, Dr. Mike has worked with numerous clients to help them recover from workplace violence and/or spillover domestic violence. These clients can suffer a variety of consequences and mental health issues in addition to any possible physical injuries, including:

  • Short- and long-term psychological trauma
  • Fear of returning to work
  • Changes in relationships with coworkers and family
  • Feelings of incompetence, guilt, powerlessness
  • Fear of criticism by supervisors or managers

Because each case will present with varying degrees of problems, Dr. Mike draws upon a multi-disciplinary counseling approach to reduce the acute psychological trauma and general stress levels. With all, a major goal is to help them return to meaningful work and for the employer to have a healthy worker as well. While Dr. Mike does not have expertise in the regulations and programs needed to provide for safe workplaces, Dr. Mike does know employers must be proactively responsible to educate staff about workplace violence and to positively influence the workplace and organizational cultural norms in order to reduce the possibility of incidents.

Michael Atwater, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing for over 30 years in Palm Beach County. He is a member of The American Psychological Association Divisions for: Marriage and Family, Addictions, Spirituality/Religion and Men and Masculinity. He is also a member of the Florida Psychological Association, and Past-President of the Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Psychological Association. Follow him on twitter @DrMikeAtwater

3 Responses

  1. Milton says:

    I do like the manner in which you have frmead this specific difficulty and it does indeed give me personally a lot of fodder for consideration. On the other hand, through what I have observed, I basically trust as the actual feed-back stack on that men and women stay on point and not embark on a tirade regarding the news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this exceptional piece and although I can not really concur with this in totality, I regard the viewpoint.

    • Felix says:

      Hello Milton, thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your opinion and your regarded that you found the piece to be excellent. I am smiling from ear to ear. I do not write to gain approval but to offer a unique perspective emanating from personal first hand experiences with offenders, victims, witness, the workforce, senior managers and courts. How can I be of assistance? You say that you like the manner in which I framed the discussion and that you gained an interesting perspective but you really do not concur. I appreciate the differences in opinion and welcome your viewpoint. Workplace Violence Prevention benefits when the discussion shifts from traditional dialogue usually captured in print and discussions by professionals actively engaged in workplace violence prevention and violence response. I don’t regard the employee on employee workplace threat of violence as unpreventable. I do not treat employees as commodities. Thank you for your feedback, kind words and compliment. Feel free to call me anytime 1-877-825-8101.

  2. Paul Mains says:

    Hello Felix and thank you for your continuing service with these blogs. We know the abusers probably don’t keep up with the news but apparently neither do many of the managers and the C-Suite. Having had several good size “General Duty” citations in the last few years surveys still seem to indicate a rise in WV statistics, including a recent IAHSS work involving emergency room visits. We are clearly beyond a “knew or should have known” threshold in many industries and more citations are sure to come.

What are your thoughts?