Workplace Violence in Healthcare and Social Service Settings

Healthcare and social service workers experience workplace violence at staggering rates and face threats to their safety on a daily basis. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the majority of all workplace assaults that occurred between 2011 and 2013, took place in healthcare and social services settings. In 2013, about 1 in 4 workplace fatalities were due to assaults and violent acts against healthcare and social service workers (OSHA, 2016).

Healthcare Settings

While workplace violence occurs across all industries and professions, healthcare employees working at hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics and other settings, are at major risk. Medical and mental health occupations are among the top 5 most at risk occupations for workplace violence (Office for Victims of Crime [OVC], 2018). 

According to OSHA (2015), between 2002 and 2013, serious workplace violence incidents that required time off work were four times more common in healthcare than in the private industry. Furthermore, healthcare workers suffer 50% of all workplace assaults (OSHA, 2016). 

Patients perpetrate most of the violence against healthcare workers, but violent incidents are also caused by visitors, coworkers and other people (OSHA, 2015). 

Violence against healthcare workers threatens the dignity, health and safety of employees, and can also translate into reduced productivity, a decrease in the quality of care provided and higher employee turnover (Arnetz, et al., 2018).  

Risk Factors

Inpatient and acute psychiatric settings, geriatric long-term facilities, high volume urban emergency departments and residential and day social services have the highest rates of violence (OSHA, 2016). The most dangerous patients are often those who have a history of violence, present with an altered mental status and are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Agitation and violent behavior in patients can be associated with pain, poor prognoses, disease progression, being in an unfamiliar environment and taking mood altering medications or drugs (OSHA, 2016). 

OSHA (2016) has also found that lacking means of emergency communication such as panic buttons, increases the risk of violence for healthcare workers. Threatening situations can escalate quickly, and employees need to have an effective way of sending emergency signals that can be received immediately so security can respond in a timely manner and provide assistance. 

Panic Buttons, a Strategy to Reduce the Risk of Violence in Healthcare

Panic buttons are one type of security measure that OSHA recommends implementing in healthcare facilities to minimize the risk of workplace violence and keep workers safe. Employees who work alone must have cellphones or panic buttons. Community care and field workers should carry cellphones and a device that can serve as a panic button, paging system and provide GPS tracking (OSHA, 2016). 

Red Button is a mobile safety solution that serves all the functions OSHA recommends: a mobile panic button, a direct paging system, cellphone application and GPS tracker. Our software has the ability to send an immediate distress alarm from anywhere, whether it’s a hospital room or a patient’s home, so responders can quickly locate and help the employee in trouble.