Workplace Violence in Hospitals Addressed by OSHA, North Carolina Legislature

Workplace violence is a serious problem in many settings. However, it is especially pervasive within the health care industry, where aides, nurses and doctors provide hands-on treatment to individuals who may be unstable and combative. nurses

Health care workers suffer assaults that include hits, scratches, kicks, bites, threats and harassment on a regular basis. In fact, a 2014 survey revealed that nearly 80 percent of nurses reported being attacked while on the job last year. An article published in Scientific American last year highlighted a Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicating health care workers suffer the most non-fatal workplace violence of any profession – by a wide margin. In fact, attacks on these professionals account for about 70 percent of all non-lethal workplace assaults resulting in days off work.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Legislature passed a law, which went into effect Dec. 1, 2015, making it a felony to commit acts of violence in North Carolina hospitals. The hope is that this will significantly curb such incidents. On the same day that law went into effect, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled a new webpage created to provide health care workers and employers strategies to prevent workplace violence. 

The webpage highlights a number of sub pages that focus on:

  • Understanding the problem
  • Safety & Health Management Systems
  • Safe Patient Handling

As our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, injuries sustained in the course and scope of employment – even through the intentional violence of a third party – are subject to compensation benefits. Ensuring they are properly filed and

According to OSHA, health care workers are at increased risk for workplace for violence. Between 2002 and 2013, incidents of serious workplace violence – requiring days of for recuperation – were four times more common within healthcare than in the private industry on average. Whereas those working in construction, manufacturing and retail had fewer than 2 cases of workplace violence for every 10,000 full-time employees, those employed in healthcare and social assistance had nearly 8 cases per 10,000 full-time employees.

The problem may actually be far worse than that. Some studies have shown workplace violence at hospitals and other health care settings is vastly under-reported.

Although the potential for workplace violence can vary from location to location, some risk factors include:

  • Lifting, moving or transporting patients
  • Working alone
  • Poor environmental design that might block escape routes or vision
  • Poor lighting in exterior areas or hallways
  • Lack of emergency communication means
  • Presence of firearms
  • Working with individuals who have history of violence or who may be under the influence of drugs or delirious
  • Working in high crime neighborhoods
  • High turnover
  • Long wait times/ overcrowded waiting rooms
  • Inadequate security
  • Lack of policies and training for staff

The largest source of violence in healthcare settings are patients. However, workers may also be at risk in the course of interactions with visitors, coworkers, students or other individuals.

In some situations, workers who are injured on-the-job may be entitled to pursue third-party litigation. Although workers cannot sue their employer for claims covered under workers’ compensation, third-party claims may present an opportunity to recover additional lost wages and compensation for pain and suffering.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

OSHA issues tools to help prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings, Dec. 1, 2015, OSHA News Release

More Blog Entries:

Easter-Rozelle v. City of Charlotte – Third-Party Personal Injury Lawsuit and Workers’ Compensation, Dec. 3, 2015, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer blog

Contact Information