State is assessing workplace violence risks

February 25, 2010

We agree with workplace researchers Kathleen M. McPhaul, Jane Lipscomb and Matthew London and George Myers of the Maryland Professional Employees Council (Readers respond, Feb. 22 and Feb. 23) that we must do all we can to prevent workplace violence wherever it occurs.

This is why Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH), in conjunction with federal agencies, has been proactive in assessing risks at public agencies and assisting them in developing prevention programs.

While we cannot discuss MOSH's ongoing investigation of the homicide that occurred on the grounds of the Cheltenham youth detention center, we are fully aware of the significant risk of job-related violence faced by health care and social service workers.

MOSH for years has held classes in workplace violence prevention, and these are heavily attended by state employees. MOSH offers free consultations to any employer in the state of Maryland, has issued guidance and letters to public agencies on workplace safety violations it finds, and has investigated numerous complaints involving violent situations.

The Commissioner of Labor and Industry encourages employers to establish violence prevention programs and to track their progress in reducing work-related assaults. Although not every incident can be prevented, many can, and the severity of injuries sustained by employees can be reduced. Adopting practical measures such as those outlines in OSHA publication 3148-01R 2004 can significantly reduce these serious threats to worker safety.

Workplace violence prevention is a critical part of MOSH's mission and will continue to be because one violent incident in the workplace is one too many.

Ronald DeJuliis, Baltimore

The writer is the commissioner of labor and industry in the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

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