The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated its guidance to protect healthcare workers from workplace violence.
Of the more than 23,000 significant assault-related workplace injuries in 2013, more than 7 in 10 occurred in healthcare or social service settings, and workers in those sectors are about four times more likely than the average private sector worker to suffer injuries due to violence, said OSHA, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in an announcement about the new guidance.
"It is unacceptable that the people who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones often work in fear of injury or death," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, M.D., said in the statement. "This updated booklet will help employers implement effective measures to reduce or eliminate workplace violence hazards."
The guidance identifies several risk factors specific to the healthcare sector, including the necessity of working with drug and alcohol abusers or gang members; patient/client transportation; poorly designed workspaces that could interfere with vision or escape routes; high worker turnover; inadequate security personnel; and insufficient means of emergency communications.
To safeguard against these risks, the guidance states, providers need clearly defined workplace violence prevention programs, that include a:
- Worksite analysis
- Commitment from management and employee involvement
- Program assessment
- Health and safety training
Prevention programs are not one-size-fits-all, according to OSHA, and individual workplace plans should include defined objectives and goals that account for the provider's size, complexity and design. Management must take the lead on several aspects of a successful program, including articulating policies and goals, effective resource allocation and upholding performance expectations.
In August of last year, OSHA cited Brooklyn, New York's Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center for failing to protect employees form violence, noting 40 violent incidents at the hospital in a three-month span.