By Ellen Owens Smith
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), healthcare workers are four times more likely to be a victim of workplace violence with nearly 75 percent of all reported workplace assaults occurring in the healthcare and social service settings. Under the OSHA’s General Duty Clause, healthcare organizations have an obligation to provide employees with a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” This language has been generally interpreted to include providing a workplace that is free from violence.
To address this ongoing problem, the Joint Commission recently issued a Sentinel Event Alert outlining its recommendations for healthcare organizations to prevent workplace violence. The alert from the commission does not carry the force of a legal requirement, but does contain several best practices:
1. Clearly define workplace violence and put systems into place across the organization that enable staff to report workplace violence;
2. Capture, track and trend all reports of workplace violence including verbal abuse and attempted assaults where no harm occurred;
3. Provide appropriate follow-up and support to all affected by workplace violation including psychological counseling and trauma-informed care if necessary;
4. Review each case of workplace violence to determine contributing factors and analyze data and workplace conditions to determine priority situations for intervention;
5. Develop quality improvement initiatives to reduce incidents of workplace violence;
6. Train all staff, including security, in de-escalation, self-defense and response to emergency codes; and
7. Evaluate workplace violence reduction initiatives.
Additionally, OSHA has published specific recommendations for reducing workplace violence in its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Services Workers. While these steps are advisory and not mandatory, healthcare organizations that fail to take appropriate measures to prevent and respond to workplace violence could jeopardize their accreditation and/or be subject to an OSHA violation.
If you would like more information regarding how you can proactively respond to workplace violence, please contact one of our attorneys.
The information provided above is created by Ellen Owens Smith of Friday, Eldredge & Clark, LLP. Ellen is a partner in the Labor and Employment Litigation Practice Group. She has over 20 years of experience litigating on behalf of employers in Arkansas and across the region. Her practice includes all areas of employment law including the ADA, FMLA, Gender Discrimination and Harassment, Title VII, Fair Housing Amendments Act, FLSA, Wage and Hour and the NLRA.
This is not a substitute for legal advice and should be considered for general guidance only. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our attorneys.