OSHA Updates Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Assaults
All jobs come along with their own sets of workplace hazards, but for many healthcare workers and social workers, their biggest concern isn’t slip-and-fall accidents or equipment safety, but the rather the risk of being assaulted by the people they’re trying to help or the people close to them. Since workers in these fields often find themselves working alone, in patients’ homes, in high-crime areas, with people who have histories of violent behavior, or with people prone to unpredictable behavior, they are more likely to be victims of violence in the workplace than workers in other industries.
In 2013, there were 23,000 significant injuries reported as a result of violence in the workplace and more than 70% of those assaults happened in the healthcare and social assistance industries. It’s estimated that healthcare workers are 20% more likely to be the victims of workplace violence than workers in the private sector. Under 20% of all workplace injuries happen to healthcare workers, but they are the victims of 50% of all workplace assaults. Workplace assaults were responsible for 10-11% of injuries that required time off from work among healthcare workers, compared to just 3% in other industries. Sadly, it’s believed that workplace assaults are under-reported, so the real numbers of injuries and fatalities could actually be higher than we realize.
Not only can assaults in the workplace result in serious injuries or even death, victims of workplace violence can also suffer from psychological trauma and become afraid of returning to work, even though many people in these fields found their jobs to be very satisfying before the incident.
In response to these numbers, OSHA has updated their guidelines for preventing assault in the workplace for healthcare workers and social workers. “It is unacceptable that the people who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones often work in fear of injury or death,” says Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of the Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA’s new guidelines use new research conducted over the past decade to update their guidelines from 1996 and 2004 to better reflect the causes and risk factors of workplace violence in these industries and suggests steps that can be taken to keep workers safe.
The new guidelines suggested by OSHA involve a 5-step process that involves managers and workers working together to prevent violence, analyzing the workplace for potential hazards, preventing and controlling hazards, safety and health training for all workers (including managers, supervisors, and security officials), and record keeping and program evaluations.
If you supervise or manage workers in either the healthcare or social assistance industries, the new guidelines issued by OSHA also includes a checklist to help you evaluate how safe your workplace is and highlight ways to protect employees from violent attacks.