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Risk in Context

4 Key Measures To Combat Increasing Workplace Violence in the Health Care Sector

Posted by Richard Kennedy June 17, 2016

Workplace violence in the health care sector is on the rise, and health care providers and regulators such as The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are taking steps to combat the problem.

OSHA may soon consider federal standards aimed at reducing the high rate of workplace violence in the healthcare industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2013 there were 5,710 cases of violence in private hospitals alone.

The OSHA standards under consideration may be similar to those developed by Cal/OSHA and the National Institute for Industrial Safety and Health (NIOSH) and include further assessments of facility risks, training enhancements, and written prevention plans, among other measures.

Regardless of whether OSHA acts or not, health care employers can take several steps now to help protect their employees and patients — and stay ahead of regulators. These include:

  1. Increase security presence: The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) can present complications and issues for hospital security. Emergency rooms are especially susceptible to violence because they must accept volatile or potentially violent patients or even their family members. Increasing security presence in areas of the hospital with a higher risk of violence can help prevent or diffuse situations before injury or damage occurs.
  2. Hire specially trained security: Beyond an increase in security presence, healthcare organizations should consider employing specialized and trained security staff. These security officers should be trained on proper restraint techniques and be prepared to implement the most appropriate method based on the gravity of the situation.
  3. Employ a behavioral specialist: A trained behavioral specialist can perform an assessment of a patient’s mental state during triage and can work with the attending physician to determine the best approach to managing the patient. This individual can help identify patients who may require additional security monitoring or provide guidance to staff who need help ensuring a patient remains calm.
  4. Implement a crisis management plan: Healthcare organizations should have a workplace violence prevention program that is closely aligned and integrated with not only a crisis management plan but also an emergency response and crisis communications plan. These plans should be enacted and practiced at all locations to ensure that preparedness and response plans are integrated.

All employees should be educated about the range of workplace violence issues they may encounter, reporting and communication channels, how to best defend themselves, what their role is during an emergency or crisis, and how to trigger facility alarms, locks, and other alerting and safety procedures.  While nothing can fully prevent any incident of workplace violence, health care facilities can take actions now to reduce the risk, better protect staff and patients and the community, and mitigate potential damage.

Related to:  Risk Consulting

Richard Kennedy

US Practice Leader of Marsh Advisory's workforce strategies