Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital violence is on the rise: 4 steps to stop it

Healthcare professionals are four times as likely to be victims of workplace violence than the average employee. But the feds are giving hospitals help to protect their workers. 

ThinkstockPhotos-516407105Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an announcement that it had updated its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers.

The guidance comes at a good time, as violence in healthcare settings has become a growing problem. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of the roughly 23,000 assault-related workplace injuries reported in 2013 occurred in healthcare or social service settings.

Risk factors

OSHA’s guidance is broken up to help hospital leaders prevent these kinds of incidents in a variety of locations, such as hospital settings, residential treatment, community care, etc.

It also highlights several risk factors associated with each setting for leaders to consider when developing prevention programs. Some risk factors hospitals may have overlooked include:

  • poor facility or environmental design, which restricts workers’ vision and ability to escape
  • a lack of methods for communicating in emergency situations
  • a lack of policies and training to recognize and manage hostile behavior
  • high worker turnover, and
  • long waits for patients in overcrowded or uncomfortable waiting/emergency rooms.

Prevention programs

To address these and other risks, OSHA says hospitals need a workplace violence prevention program with clearly stated objectives and goals that reflect the size, design and complexity of your organization and operations.

According to the guidance, an effective program should include:

  • C-suite and staff commitment. Be sure to include your facilities’ leaders, as well as members of your staff, to create and operate your program. Consider holding regular meetings to assign tasks, allocate resources and share recommendations related to maintaining your program.
  • A worksite analysis. Have a team of managers and front-line workers conduct detailed assessments of facilities to find potential hazards. This can also help you figure out what areas or procedures to focus on during training. OSHA also recommends you review records of any past incidents of violence to determine if there are any patterns to the assaults.
  • Hazard prevention and control. After your analysis is complete, you’ll want to review what control options are available to limit risks from the identified hazards. Then leaders should follow up to ensure the controls are effectively limiting hazards.
  • Safety and health training. OSHA’s guidance offers a variety of ways to approach training, but emphasizes that training be given to all employees about policies and procedures in the event of workplace violence.

It’s important that hospitals understand there is no one-size-fits-all prevention program. Facility leaders will want to take time to review their prevention programs at regular intervals to ensure they still reflect your organization’s size, structure and risks.

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