What is Workplace Violence?
Workplace violence is any physical assault or act of aggressive behavior occurring where a public employee performs any work-related duty in the course of his or her employment, including, but not limited to:
- An attempt or threat, whether verbal or physical, to inflict physical injury upon an employee;
- Any intentional display of force which would give an employee reason to fear or expect bodily harm;
- Intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person without his or her consent that entails some injury; or
- Stalking an employee with the interest in causing fear of physical harm to the physical safety and health of such employee when such stalking has arisen through and in the course of employment.
In 2006, New York State enacted legislation requiring public employers to develop and implement programs to prevent and minimize workplace violence and help ensure the safety of public employees. While workplace violence can occur in any workplace setting, typical examples of employment situations that may pose higher risks include:
- Duties that involve the exchange of money
- Delivery of passengers, goods, or services
- Duties that involve mobile workplace assignments
- Working with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social service, or criminal justice settings
- Working alone or in small numbers
- Working late at night or during early morning hours
- Working in high-crime areas
- Duties that involve guarding valuable property or possessions
- Working in community-based settings
- Working in a location with uncontrolled public access to the workplace
Who is covered?
Public employers include:
- State agencies
- Fire Departments
- Political subdivisions of the state
- Public authorities
- School Safety Agents of the NYPD
- Public benefit corporations, and
- any other governmental agency or instrumentality
But do not include:
- Public school districts
- New York City public schools
- County Vocational Education and Extension Boards
- (Employers defined in section 2801-A of New York State Education Law).
What do public employers have to do?
Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) has developed a How to Comply Guide to assist employers in complying with the regulations. Essentially, employers must:
- Develop and post a written policy statement about the employer's workplace violence prevention program goals and objectives.
- Conduct a risk evaluation by examining the workplace for potential hazards related to workplace violence with an authorized employee representative (if there is one).
- Develop a workplace violence prevention program (in writing, although that is only required for employers with 20 or more full-time permanent employees) that explains how the policy is actually going to be implemented. The program will include details about the risks that were identified in the basic evaluation and describe how the employer will address those risks. It will also include a system to report any incidents of workplace violence, among other things.
- Provide training and information for employees around the workplace violence prevention program, including any risk factors identified and what employees can do to protect themselves.
- Document workplace violence incidents and maintain those records.
- Annually review all workplace violence incidences with an authorized employee representative (if there is one) to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to the program or identified risk factors.
How does the Department of Labor respond to complaints of workplace violence hazards?
An employee must first notify a supervisor, in written format, of a serious violation of the workplace violence prevention program and allow a reasonable period of time for correction. For cases involving imminent danger, the local authorities should be contacted immediately. If the matter has not been resolved, a complaint may be filed with the Department of Labor's Division of Safety and Health PESH bureau. Valid complaints may result in a worksite inspection to determine if the employer has implemented the requirements of the Workplace Violence Prevention regulation. Employers found to be out of compliance with the requirements noted above will receive notices of violation. Note: it is important to address any violations within the agreed upon abatement period so that the employer does not risk incurring fines for failing to comply.
How can Public Employee Safety & Health help?
The Public Employee Safety & Health Bureau (PESH) has provided a number of resources to assist employers who are trying to come into compliance with the workplace violence prevention regulation. In addition, Public Employee Safety & Health has a consultation branch that is separate and apart from the enforcement branch, which provides free consultation surveys at the request of the employer. The employer can also set the scope of these surveys. Public Employee Safety & Health helps to identify the hazards present and recommends ways to correct each hazard. Public Employee Safety & Health also has consultants to help train employees and correct violations cited as a result of an enforcement inspection.