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Workers' compensation: OSHA advises methods to prevent violence

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a $71,000 penalty after an investigation at a behavioral health facility in Florida. The safety violations that were identified at this acute care inpatient center underscore the hazards to which workers in such facilities are exposed. Many workers' compensation benefits claims are filed by injured employees who were victims of violent patients.

The solutions and recommendations by OSHA include measures to prevent patients from entering nurses' stations by jumping over the desks to get to staff members or to grab phones, staplers, computers, pens and cords to use as weapons. The agency also suggests the creation of a response team who will have written protocols and procedures for resolving situations of disruptive and aggressive behavior, threats and assaults by patients. Installation of security cameras and providing personnel with panic alarms have also been recommended.

Staff must also learn the dangers of wearing lanyards, necklaces and loose, long hair that can all be used in strangulation attempts. If patients can grasp a nurse's hair, violent pulling can cause neck strains. Along with this, staff must receive regular safety training in protection methods against violent patients. Changes have also been suggested to intake procedures for better evaluation of new patients to identify potential violent tendencies. Any violent events must be investigated to determine the root causes for improving preparedness in the future.

Victims of such violence must receive psychological counseling and comprehensive medical care. Even those who were uninjured but witnesses to violent events could be traumatized. Fortunately, the Florida workers' compensation insurance program will cover the medical expenses of employees who were victims of workplace violence. Legal counsel is available for those who need help navigating benefits claims.

Source:, "OSHA Cites Another Healthcare Facility for Workplace Violence", May 24, 2018

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