By John C. Ivins, Jr.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expanding its enforcement resources to address the increasing problem of workplace violence occurring in healthcare settings – particularly in hospitals and nursing homes. Earlier this year, OSHA published updated Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, citing troubling statistics about such increased incidents. This was followed in late June by a Department of Labor (DOL) announcement that OSHA would be expanding enforcement to ensure compliance.
Healthcare providers must become familiar with these Guidelines and take immediate steps to avoid any adverse action by OSHA.
Incidents of Healthcare Workplace Violence Continue To Rise
Citing data that confirms this is an increasing problem, the Guidelines specifically point to risks and hazards arising at hospitals, long-term care facilities, non-residential clinics, group homes and in certain home health settings. Workplace violence is, however, occurring across the complete spectrum of healthcare providers, as illustrated by just a few examples occurring this year:
- A cardiologist who was shot and killed on the campus of a Boston hospital by an attacker who was unhappy with the care provided to his mother;
- A mental health nurse in a Port Orchard, Wash. inpatient unit who was choked to unconsciousness by a patient who became angry after being told he could not leave a phone message for the doctor;
- An office staff worker at a psychiatrist’s office in New York City who was stabbed by a disgruntled patient fleeing the Midtown office building; and
- An ER nurse in a Westchester, Pa. hospital who was hit in the face with a clipboard by a patient who was angered at being told she was being discharged without a prescription for Percocet.