Workplace Violence: OSHA’s Updates Aim to Protect Health Care and Social Service Workers

As of April 2, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an update to its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers. These new guidelines update OSHA’s 1996 and 2004 voluntary guidelines by incorporating workplace violence research collected from the last 10 years. Research includes causes of workplace violence in health care and social service settings, risk factors that accompany working with patients or clients who display violent behavior, and the appropriate preventive measures that can be taken in hospitals, residential treatment facilities, nursing homes, small neighborhood clinics, mental health centers, community care centers, group homes, home visits, psychiatric facilities, drug abuse centers, and more.

These new updates are the result of high occurrences of violence and injuries in the health care and social service settings. Between 2011 and 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 and 25,630 annually, with 70 to 74% occurring in healthcare and social service settings. According to these figures, health care and social service workers are also approximately 4x more likely than private sector workers to be injured and miss work as a result of this violence. Workplace violence rates highlighted in BLS data and corroborated by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimate that between 1993 and 2009, healthcare workers had a 20% overall higher rate of workplace violence than all other workers; these figures could be even higher, as workplace violence is often underreported.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthy workplaces for their employees. When risk factors can be identified and employers take appropriate action, the risk of assault can be reduced and possibly prevented. To help employers provide a safe workplace, OSHA’s new guidelines include industry best practices, as well as the most effective ways for employers and employees to prevent and reduce the risk of violence in health care and social service settings. One such tip includes the importance of employers creating a written workplace-violence prevention plan, which includes management commitment and employee participation, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, record-keeping, program evaluation, and more to protect employees in these high risk industries.

To read more, visit OSHA’s news release, or visit OSHA’s Workplace Violence Web page to learn more about preventing violence in all workplace settings.