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Bullying as a Threat to Employee Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces the OSH Act of 1970.

This law states in pertinent part:

SEC. 5. Duties

(a) Each employer --

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees... (Emphasis added).

Addressing workplace threats to safety.

It is difficult to conceive of any employer allowing smoking, sparking machines to operate in the workplace without immediately perceiving them as "hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees..."

Such a scenario would more likely than not cause the employer to understand its obligation to furnish "employment and a place of from recognized hazards" and take immediate action to mitigate the risk before "death" or "serious physical harm" results.

Should the same diligence be taken by employers with respect to workplace bullies before employees are harmed in accordance with the OSH Act's requirements?

The experts weigh in.

While addressing youth on youth bullying, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") states as follows:

Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, involving an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm."

The CDC's Marci Feldman Hertz, M.S. and Ingrid Donato and James Wright, M.S., L.C.P.C. of the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Rockville, Maryland have published a paper entitled "Bullying and Suicide: A Public Health Approach" which states in relevant part:

"Bullying is a significant public health problem because it is prevalent and harmful..." (Emphasis added).

Additionally, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute which is operated by Social Psychologist Gary Namie, PhD and Clinical Psychologist Ruth Namie, PhD:

Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence. What makes it psychological is bullying's impact on the person's mental health and sense of well-being. The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target's identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults. The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target's physical and mental health. (Emphasis added).

For further information regarding an employer's requirements under the OSH Act or to report a violation contact OSHA at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA) or visit OSHA's website at

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