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Workplace Safety an Issue in Hospitals

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Did you know that hospitals are among the most dangerous places to work? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a citation against Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn for failing to protect employees against physical attacks by patients and visitors. It found 40 instances of violence against employees between February and April of 2014.

Such problems are not unique to Brookdale. At the prison on Rikers Island in the East River in New York City, the company contracted to provide healthcare to inmates reported that its employees are regularly assaulted, kicked, punched in the face and rendered unconscious. While OSHA was on the scene investigating incidents such as these, six more reports of workplace violence were filed.

You might think that the problem at Riker’s Island simply reflects the violent nature of a prison population. But it turns out that Rikers is not that different from other healthcare facilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72 percent of on-the-job injuries suffered by healthcare workers in the United States are the result of assault and physical violence. According to an OSHA report published in 2013, there are 6.8 work-related injuries and illness for every 100 full-time hospital workers. This is greater than construction, manufacturing and other industries.

At Brookdale, employees experienced assaults that left them suffering from injuries such as knee injuries, hand injuries, skin lacerations, and other problems that required days away from work. The worst recent incident left a nurse in a coma when a patient kicked her in the head in February. The hospital was fined $78,000 for one “wilful” violation of workplace safety and one instance of not managing incident reporting forms properly. A wilful violation is one that could have been avoided had the employer followed know processes and procedures to protect employees.

In the case of a Brookdale, the institution could have implemented measures to protect staff using metal detectors, protective barriers, alarm systems and training to help employees identify potentially unsafe situations and respond correctly. Such measures have been shown to reduce violence against employees in other settings, including hospital settings.

Source: Read more about workplace violence in a recent article in the National Law Review

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