What makes a workplace safe? Is it the rules and regulations of a company handbook? Is it security measures that determine and limit access to company grounds and assets? Is it proper training that can inform staff how to prepare and respond to moments both common and critical? Or is it something else?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that a safe workplace is defined by all these things and more. As directed by OSHA’s General Duty Clause—or GDC—employers must provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

This guideline has long been interpreted as industry specific. In other words, companies have been legally bound to ensure the work environment is free of materials, conditions, or practices that could put their employees in harm’s way, such as in a factory, a mining operation, or a construction site. However, in a world where acts of workplace violence (WPV) are now a daily threat in so many commonplace environments, this definition is taking on a new meaning—one that should prompt companies to take broader action on employee safety.

The Idaho Incident

In response to evidence presented following a Boise, Idaho mall shooting in autumn 2021, OSHA applied the GDC to cite the mall’s security company as culpable in the incident. According to reports, the shooter was in repeated violation of the mall’s restrictions on personal firearms and known to mall security as a potential threat. Among other things, OSHA has said the company “failed to follow its own procedures” and their negligence was at least a factor in the incident.

While OSHA is still developing more clear-cut guidance regarding workplace violence, their application of the GDC in this instance should get the attention of employers across all industries.

A Way Forward

The evolution of the GDC and how it may be used to counter the rising threat of workplace violence raises a number of questions about employer security measures as detailed in this recent Fisher Philips piece. Certainly, organizational policy and on-site security protocols go a long way in helping companies establish a safer work environment, but those can only do so much. Just as or even more important is creating a workforce that is prepared to recognize and respond to these threats.

Violent encounters are on the rise in the workplace. Given the increasing possibility of experiencing an incident and OSHA’s expanding expectation of corporate responsibility to employee safety, providing up to date WPV prevention and active shooter preparedness training is crucial for companies aiming to keep both their staff and reputation secure.

    With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, situational awareness, active shooter training, conflict avoidance and verbal de-escalation, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.