At the 2019 WCI Annual Conference, Kelly Bernish from Global SHE Solutions LLC discussed workplace violence and how it is disproportionally impacting industries associated with caring that traditionally employ more women. Violence in the workplace is the leading cause of death on the job for women.
When people think of workplace violence they think of active shootings. These are rare. Workplace violence is defined by NIOSH as violent acts including physical assaults and threats of assault directed toward persons at work or on duty. Even if no physical injury takes place, threats, abuse and hostility are also considered workplace violence.
Unlike mass shootings, workplace violence is predictable and somewhat preventable. However too often it is not the focus of safety professionals.
The healthcare industry has seen a tremendous amount of workplace violence. In this industry more than 11% of all lost time claims involve assaults. 50% of all workplace assaults are in the healthcare industry. Most nurses report that they have experienced workplace violence. It is felt that assaults in the healthcare space are significantly underreported because the workers feel the assaults are part of the job.
OSHA has increased their focus on workplace violence in the healthcare setting. Some of the risk factors they highlighted:
- Working directly with people that have a history of violence. This includes patients and their family.
- Transporting patients and clients.
- Working alone in a facility or patient homes.
- Poor environmental design that may block an employees vision on inhibit their ability to escape.
- Poorly lit corridors, rooms and parking areas.
- Lack of means fo emergency communication.
- Prevalence of firearms and other weapons in society.
- Working in neighborhoods with high crime rates.
Organizational Risk Factors
- Lack of facility policies and staff training for recognizing and managing escalating threats.
- Working when understaffed.
- High worker turnover.
- Inadequate security and mental health personnel on site.
- Long waits for patents and overcrowded uncomfortable waiting rooms.
- Unrestricted movement of the public in facility.
- Perception that violence is tolerated and victims will not be able to report the incident to police and press charges.
Violence Prevention Programs
- Management commitment and employee participation in the design and execution of the program.
- Worksite analysis.
- Hazard prevention and control.
- Safety and health training including de-escalation and self-defense techniques. This training should include a hands on component.
- Record keeping and program evaluation. Keeping an accurate record of all incidents of abuse and verbal attacks is important to identify patients or family members that have a pattern of abusive behaviors.
- Social media monitoring can help to identify hate speech or rage directed toward your organization.
- Employee background checks that include the national domestic violence database and sex offender registry.
Phil LA Duke. He has a blog and numerous articles.
OSHA/NIOSH has specific publications on workplace violence.