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OSHA Workplace Violence Help

OSHA Workplace Violence

A recent bill introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to assist medical workers at risk of workplace violence by mandating a standard OSHA workplace violence prevention plan for all healthcare and social service employers.

Specifically, the bill would require employers in those industries to develop workplace-specific plans to prevent OSHA workplace violence.

What is OSHA Workplace Violence?

Many people may not associate workplace violence with OSHA. In a healthcare setting, they are likely more familiar with its personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements or laboratory standards. OSHA defines workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at work.” 

Various factors can trigger workplace violence, including domestic incidents, intimidation, and mental health issues. As a result, threats of workplace violence can come from nearly any source – intruders, domestic partners, family members, co-workers, or even patients.

Healthcare workers are one category of employees identified by OSHA as being at greater risk of workplace violence. In addition to individual factors, OSHA has identified the following broader risks. 

Patient, Client, and Setting-Related Risk Factors 

  • Working directly with people who have a history of violence, abuse drugs or alcohol, gang members, and relatives of patients or clients
  • Transporting patients and clients 
  • Working alone in a facility or patients’ homes 
  • Poor environmental design of the workplace that may block employees’ vision or interfere with their escape from a violent incident 
  • Poorly lit corridors, rooms, parking lots, and other areas
  • Lack of means of emergency communication
  • Prevalence of firearms, knives, and other weapons among patients and their families and friends
  • Working in neighborhoods with high crime rates

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Organizational Risk Factors

  • Lack of facility policies and staff training for recognizing and managing escalating hostile and assaultive behaviors from patients, clients, visitors, or staff 
  • Working when understaffed—especially during mealtimes and visiting hours 
  • High worker turnover 
  • Inadequate security and mental health personnel on-site 
  • Long waits for patients or clients and overcrowded, uncomfortable waiting rooms 
  • Unrestricted movement of the public in clinics and hospitals 
  • Perception that violence is tolerated and victims will not be able to report the incident to police and/or press charges

The Seriousness of OSHA Workplace Violence

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists workplace violence as the third-leading cause of workplace deaths in the U.S. Since the pandemic, workplace violence in healthcare settings has spiked. In a survey earlier this year, 48 percent of respondents reported a small or significant increase in workplace violence. That represented an 18-point jump from a poll taken in September of 2021.

Incidents like the July 11, 2022, stabbing of a nurse and paramedic at a hospital in metropolitan St. Louis, Missouri, highlight the increased threats to