Are hospitals responsible for preventing workplace violence?

Despite the rise in workplace violence, many hospitals don't know how to prevent assaults. But healthcare organizations must take steps to stop attacks because a governement agency will hold providers responsible for failure to put safeguards in place.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, for not adequately protecting its employees from violence. According to OSHA's statement, Brookdale was aware of about 40 violent incidents between Feb. 7 and April 12, including an attack that left a nurse with severe brain injuries. The medical center faces a $78,000 fine as a result.

Many hospitals that have seen incidents of workplace violence develop improved prevention programs, FierceHealthcare previously reported. To be effective, OSHA said, such a program should address several different aspects of  hospital operations, including, but not limited to:

  • Administration, such as assessments of job site hazards, incident reviews and implementation of new policies and procedures

  • Set up protective barriers, panic alarm systems and designated treatment areas in such a way that employees can escape if necessary

  • Personal protective equipment such as personal alarm systems

  • Training that properly addresses red flags for violence and services for employees who may be traumatized by a violent incident

Violence against front-line hospital workers such as nurses and emergency department staff in particular is on the rise, and some workers say management does not give them proper support. A Massachusetts nurse of 26 years who was sexually assaulted on duty told CBS Boston that a high-level hospital administrator told her such incidents were "part of the job," FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read OSHA's announcement