Workplace violence is a reality in healthcare.It’s a harsh reality that people working in healthcare are four times as likely to experience an incidence of workplace violence as those working in private industry, according to startling data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Additionally, 71 percent of reported “intentional injury by other person” incidents occurred in healthcare and social assistance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These data points are limited to situations that resulted in missed days of work — both agencies expect the actual numbers are higher as many occurrences go unreported.

“Workers in the healthcare industry can be at risk of physical violence, harassment, and intimidation from patients, family members, and coworkers,” says an OSHA spokesperson. Healthcare staff are often in high-pressure situations that create stress for the people around them in locations with public access.

OSHA further outlines the specific risk factors contributing to workplace violence in healthcare, which include:

  • Working directly with people who have a history of violence or substance abuse
  • Exposure to distressed relatives of patients or clients
  • Working in proximity to knives or other weapons
  • Lifting, moving, and transporting patients and clients
  • Poor facility designs, including no emergency communication system and badly lit hallways, rooms, parking lots, which impedes employees’ vision or interferes with escape
  • Lack of facility policies and staff training to recognize and de-escalate hostile situations
  • Working alone or when understaffed
  • Insufficient security and mental health personnel on site
  • Long wait times in unwelcoming or crowded admission areas and waiting rooms
  • Providing care in psychiatric services, geriatric units, and high-volume emergency departments
  • Failure to review violence-related medical, safety, threat assessment, workers’ compensation, and insurance records

The threat of workplace violence touches several aspects of talent management. It creates both physical and emotional injuries for your staff, making it more difficult to function in an environment that already carries significant demands on mind and body. When injured employees have to miss work, you may need to cover shifts with temporary staffing or pay overtime, further taxing your workforce. And in the most unfortunate cases, you may even need to recruit and retrain replacements. Finally, an incidence of workplace violence impacts your entire organizational culture, lowering morale and increasing turnover.

The HealthcareSource Course Library offers a number of courses that address workplace violence, including:

  • HealthcareSource: Workplace Violence
  • Preventing Bullying and Violence
  • OSHA Workplace Violence
  • Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare
  • COMPLIANCE IMPACT: Workplace Violence & the Warning Signs

Search the Course Catalog to find the workplace training for your organization.

“Safety must start on day one and be a continuous process,” adds the OSHA representative. “By assessing their worksites and implementing a well-written workplace violence prevention program, employers can identify methods to reduce the incidence of workplace violence.” Here are a sample of recommendations from OSHA’s Preventing Workplace Violence: A Road Map for Healthcare Facilities that you can use at your hospital or senior care facility:

  • Deploy employee questionnaires and baseline screening to identify tasks that put workers at risk of violence
  • Conduct anonymous employee surveys annually or after an incident to track the effectiveness of existing hazard control measures to upgrade risk factors, training, or work practices
  • Seek input from patients and family members
  • Perform regular walkthrough assessments to pinpoint and assess workplace hazards
  • Inspect all work areas, including exterior building areas and parking areas, and evaluate security measures with workplace violence prevention in mind

For more information, OSHA offers these additional resources designed specifically for healthcare organizations:

This article provides general information and is not intended to replace professional and personalized safety, legal, or insurance advice. Consult with your own advisors and review local/state/federal regulatory guidelines and requirements when creating or updating your workplace violence prevention program.

Related Resources:

About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based business and brand journalist who has covered healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema, and co-authored the award-winning teen writing book, Be a Better Writer. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.