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OSHA intends to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel next week to review its draft Workplace Violence rulemaking aimed at the healthcare and social assistance industries. Once the panel begins work on March 1st, OSHA may release to the docket (Docket No. OSHA-2016-0014) the language of its draft rule.

OSHA explains that work violence is a widespread problem for workers in healthcare and social service occupations. For these two industries alone, Bureau of Labor Statistics data estimate that, annually in the U.S., nearly 15,000 days-away cases are prompted by “an intentional injury made by another person.”

The term workplace violence is defined as violent acts directed toward persons at work or on duty. Examples include, but are not limited to, shootings, bombings, stabbings, beatings with or without an object, pushing, hitting, scratching, biting, sexual assault, and verbal threats of assault.

How does OSHA want to regulate workplace violence?

Several years ago, OSHA received a petition for a regulation to prevent workplace violence in healthcare by a broad coalition of labor unions. Another petition came from National Nurses United. On January 10, 2017, OSHA granted those petitions.

However, just last month, OSHA leaked the regulatory elements of the draft rule at a roundtable sponsored by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. Those draft elements include:

  • A workplace violence prevention program (WVPP),
  • Workplace violence hazard assessment,
  • Workplace violence control measures,
  • Preventive training, and
  • Violent incident investigation and recordkeeping.

Other potential elements may include anti-retaliatory provisions and approaches that avoid stigmatization of healthcare patients and social assistance clients.

Why the panel?

The latest action relates to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996, which provides an avenue for small businesses to participate in the federal regulatory arena. Under SBREFA, OSHA is required to convene an SBAR Panel prior to proposing rules that would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

The latest panel, comprised of members from the Office of Advocacy, OSHA, and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will listen to small entity representatives (SERs) who would potentially be affected by the draft rule. Through the SBREFA process, OSHA will present to the SERs a programmatic approach for the prevention of workplace violence and seek their input on how these approaches might affect the operations of their workplace.

A final report from the panel follows these discussions.

What’s the timeline?

OSHA will convene the SBAR Panel for workplace violence on March 1 and host several teleconferences in mid-March with the SERs. These teleconferences will be open for the public in listen-only mode. The interagency panel will then issue a final panel report on or about May 1, 2023.

From there, OSHA reviews the report and may make any appropriate revisions to the rule and publish the proposed rule along with the panel's report in the Federal Register.

Check out OSHA’s “Workplace Violence SBREFA” webpage for details.

Industry sectors impacted

OSHA explains that the agency hopes to have SERs from eight industry sectors participate in the SBAR Panel:

  • Hospitals, including emergency departments;
  • Psychiatric hospitals and residential behavioral health facilities;
  • Ambulatory mental healthcare and ambulatory substance abuse treatment centers;
  • Freestanding emergency centers;
  • Residential care facilities;
  • Home healthcare;
  • Emergency medical services; and
  • Social assistance (excluding child day care centers).

As of today, OSHA is particularly welcoming employers from the following industries:

  • Social assistance services (individual, child/youth, and family services for the elderly, services for the unhoused, community food services, etc.);
  • Correctional health services; and
  • Health services in the educational sector.

Keys to remember

An SBAR Panel begins March 1 for the Workplace Violence rulemaking, where small business entities will provide input on OSHA’s approach to the rulemaking. At the same time, the agency may post its draft rulemaking in the docket. The interagency panel will then provide a report on or around May 1 with its recommendations. From there, OSHA may proceed with its work on a proposed rule.