Health care workers face higher risks for workplace violence than other occupations, according to the Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Daily Advisor. They investigated workplace assaults over a three-year period, which averaged between 23,540 and 25,630; out of these, 70 to 74 percent occurred in health care and social service settings.
Some of the riskiest settings include being in environments where there are knives and firearms present. Homes and facilities that do not provide easy escape routes are another. Those who work with people with past histories of violence, alcohol and drug abusers, or in high crime neighborhoods can also be in danger. Environments that made the high-risk list include residential and nonresidential treatment facilities, patient and group homes, large medical facilities, and hospitals.
A first step toward staving off violence is to research patients’ past behaviors. Anyone with a history of past violence should have a record that includes what triggers set them off, along with ways to de-escalate their actions. Employers and supervisors should clearly communicate a zero-tolerance policy for violence. This falls under the umbrella of proper employee training, and should extend to all personnel, including security officers. Patients with known histories of violence should have constant supervision, and any new incidents should be reported.
Employees should also be instructed to be extra careful in stairwells and elevators and to use the buddy system rather than being alone with potentially dangerous patients. It is recommended to treat these patients in more open areas, while maintaining patient privacy.
There are many ways to reduce the risk of violence in health care settings, some with simple changes. Proper lighting is important so that nobody is left in the dark. Drawers and cabinets should be locked when not in use, and any item that could be used as a weapon should be removed or well secured. Anything that can be done to reduce noise and removing sharp-edged objects and protrusions can also make a difference.
More costly but necessary changes include installing security systems with panic buttons and metal detectors. Many facilities have employee safe rooms, enclosed receptionist desks with bulletproof glass, closed-circuit video, and lockable doors that limit access to other rooms. Other measures include glass panels in walls and doors, curved mirrors, and secure restrooms for staff with inside door locks.
Health care employees who work in other settings should also make safety a priority. Employers should keep track of them with daily logs that include the time and length of visits and patient names and addresses. It is also a good idea to have an emergency beeper and contact number to call if the need arises. Supervisors should have employee car license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions, and employees should be instructed to check in periodically.
Health care workers should be valued and not have to experience workplace injuries. Contact the knowledgeable Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP to discuss your case today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania. Call us today at 267-589-0090 or complete our online form for a free consultation.
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