Q: Do we as an employer have any specific obligations to provide worksite safety and workplace security for our employees who work in the field?
A: Yes, to some extent. Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers must provide a safe working environment for all employees. Whether employers are found liable for workplace violence depends on the facts at hand.
If the risk of violence is a recognized hazard in your industry, you may be required to take steps to minimize that risk or your organization could face citations and greater liability should something happen.
We recommend having a safety policy in place that includes instructions on how employees should handle the most common situations they may encounter while working out in the field.
For example, if there is a high probability that your employees will be held up at gun point, your policy should explain what actions they should they take, such as:
- Do not fight or resist an attacker.
- Give the attackers whatever they’re asking for. Physical possessions are not worth their life.
- Seek cover or find a safe place as quickly as possible.
- Dial 911 when it is safe to do so.
- Report the incident to authorities and the company as quickly as possible.
Also consider proactively offering workplace violence training so that your employees are more prepared for these situations. KPA offers online and in-person options.
Offer any employees who have experienced workplace violence — even if they were working off site — access to an employee assistance program, if you offer one, or other counseling services.
Bottom Line: You can’t prevent workplace violence entirely, but you should do your best to prepare and protect your workers from harm.