Recently, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation surrounding a fatal shooting at a mall in Boise, Idaho revealed repeated exposures to workplace violence hazards. Specifically, Professional Security Consultants Inc., based in Los Angeles, California, exposed employees to possible workplace violence. Meanwhile, they failed to follow proper procedures to mitigate these hazards. Unfortunately, the incident resulted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed officer. OSHA enforces strict standards that affect many high-risk industries, in particular. Included among these standards are employers’ recordkeeping and reporting obligations. Accordingly, OSHA has stated it will track failures to submit injury and illness data annually.

OSHA on Workplace Violence Hazards

According to OSHA, workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. This can include threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, in 2019, there were 454 workplace homicides in the U.S., accounting for nine percent of all fatal workplace injuries that year. Elsewhere, the BLS reports that fatal occupational injuries among law enforcement workers increased 18.6 percent between 2019 and 2020.

OSHA requires several written safety plans that depend on the actual workplace and the work performed. Some of these are based on risk factors that can contribute to workplace violence hazards. Indeed, high-risk entities often include:

  • law enforcement personnel,
  • those who work alone.
  • employees who work late at night, and
  • businesses operating in areas with high crime rates.

However, OSHA maintains that the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. For example, employers can establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence.

Repeated Exposure to Workplace Violence Hazards

Following a fatal shooting of an unarmed security officer on October 25th, 2021, OSHA initiated an investigation of the Los Angeles-based security company, Professional Security Consultants Inc. OSHA’s investigation discovered that the company repeatedly exposed workers to workplace violence hazards at the Boise Towne Square mall. Markedly, the company failed to follow its own safety procedures for interacting with armed individuals. These procedures, accordingly, enforce the mall’s own code of conduct. Specifically, the company neglected controls to protect security workers from workplace violence hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Penalties for Failing to Mitigate Workplace Violence Hazards

In the end, OSHA proposed penalties against the company, totaling $14,502. Additionally, OSHA recommended that the company develop a workplace violence prevention program that would include:

  • training for security personnel;
  • increased high-visibility signage; and
  • procedures for identifying, tracking and communicating information on high-risk people, persons of interest and habitual offenders of the mall’s firearms prohibition.

OSHA Area Director David Kearns reiterated employer obligations under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. “Every worker has the right to a safe and healthful workplace,” Kearns stated, “This employer must provide enhanced safeguards and training to ensure workers have the knowledge and tools to better protect themselves against assault.”

Workplace Violence Prevention Training eLearning Module

Failure to protect employees from violence in the workplace can result in fines and penalties under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act and/or related state regulations. Additionally, employers can be found negligent in court if they cannot prove that they took all reasonable measures to prevent a violent incident from occurring. Therefore, to help employers prevent serious injuries and fatalities resulting from workplace violence hazards, Personnel Concepts created the Workplace Violence Prevention Training eLearning Module. The interactive training program covers risk factors and types of incidents. Employees also learn ways to recognize signs of potentially violent behavior and procedures for responding to violence in the workplace.