OSHA Focuses on Workplace Violence Against Health Care Workers

The issue of workplace violence is one that affects employees in a vast array of industries, but it’s especially pervasive for those in the health care industry.medical doctor

Last month, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a formal request for information on potential standards to prevent workplace violence, specifically in health care and social assistance settings. The goal is to collect as much detailed information as possible on a variety of topics so that the agency can help develop strategies that will be effective in lowering the risk of workplace violence. The deadline for submitting information is in April. The agency is also planning on holding a public meeting for those interested on commenting on the issue.

The move was prompted by a report issued by the Government Accountability Office in April that called on OSHA to improve the safety of health care workers, who reportedly suffer much higher rates of workplace violence. In fact, workers in this field suffer some type of violent incident at work at rates that are five times the national average.

Although the full extent of the problem isn’t fully known, available information suggests there are between 22,250 and 80,700 incidents of non-fatal workplace violence incidents involving health care workers every year.

The GAO report outlined three areas where OSHA might consider aiming its focus. Those included:

  • Giving safety inspectors more information to help them identify and issue work safety hazard citations during regular inspections;
  •  Ensuring hazard alert letters are properly followed up to ensure facilities are now in compliance; and
  • Assessing current efforts to figure out if more needs to be done, such as developing some kind of standard for health care providers to implement to prevent these injurious incidents.

The GAO pointed out that a survey of some 4,000 registered nurses revealed a quarter had suffered some type of physical attack by either a patient or the patient’s family in the last year.

The most common forms of physical attacks included hitting, kicking, and biting.

OSHA agreed with the recommendations from the GAO and vowed to take prompt action.

On the whole, workplace violence in the private sector happens at a rate of 1.7 per 10,000 workers, according to OSHA. Meanwhile for those in the health care sector, the rate of violence was 8.2 per 10,000 workers.

The rate of overall injuries for nursing and residential care workers is astronomically higher than for the rest of those in the private sector. When it comes to work injuries that require time away from work, private sector employees suffer 2.8 injuries per 10,000. Meanwhile, private sector hospital employees suffer overall injuries of 14.7 per 10,000. Nursing and residential care workers suffer a rate of injury that’s 35.3 per 10,000. Workers in state-run hospitals and residential living facilities (i.e., nursing homes) suffered the highest rates of injury, according to research from the GAO. Workers in these settings work closely with patients who may be mentally ill, suffer from dementia, or be more likely to become violent.

At the open public meeting this month, OSHA is hoping to glean comments from workers, employers, and other interested parties.

Employees who suffer an injury on the job – whether due to violence or some other source – should be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits to help cover medical expenses and wage losses.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Request for Information and Stakeholder Meeting: Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare and Social Assistance, Dec. 7, 2016, OSHA

More Blog Entries:

AP: Film Industry Accidents Too Often Unreported, Dec. 7, 2016, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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