Do you have a policy to keep your employees safe from crime? If not, you might be violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. A company providing in-home nursing services recently found this out the hard way.
The company sent its employees into the homes of patients to provide health care services. One of the nurses reported to the company that she was experiencing sexual harassment in one of the houses she went to, alleging that a man who lived there repeatedly groped her and made sexual comments to her. Eventually, he sexually assaulted the nurse, and was arrested.
Other nurses at the company reported to OSHA that they too had been the targets of sexual harassment by the man, and had reported this to the company. The company, however, continued to send nurses into the home, and did nothing to protect their safety. In fact, the company never even told the woman who was sexually assaulted about the complaints it had received about the man.
Predictably, the nurse sued the company. Perhaps less predictably, OSHA fined the company $98,000. It issued a citation to the company for failing to report to it all instances of workplace violence, which OSHA regulations required it to do. OSHA also cited the company for “acting with plain indifference to employee safety.” This violated, according to OSHA, the Occupational and Safety Health Act’s mandate to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards.
Employers should remember that failing to keep workplaces safe from crime could be against the law. Therefore, employers should have plans in place to protect their employees from crime. In its citation, OSHA made suggestions as to what such a policy should contain, including:
- A written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program;
- Workplace violence hazard assessment and security procedures for each new client;
- Procedures to control workplace violence such as a worker's right to refuse to provide services in a clearly hazardous situation without fear of retaliation;
- A workplace violence training program;
- Procedures to be taken in the event of a violent incident in the workplace, including incident reports and investigations;
- A system for employees to report all instances of workplace violence, regardless of severity.
If you want help creating such a policy, you may want to consider contacting an experienced attorney.