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OSHA on How to Prevent Violence in Healthcare and Social Services

If you work in health care or social services, you won’t be surprised to hear that in 2013, more than 70% of assault-induced injuries on workers occurred in health care and social services settings, and that you’re nearly four times more likely to be injured as a result of violence than the average private sector worker.

These statistics come from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and are cited in a new guide from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) called Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers [PDF]. The guide updates OSHA's 1996 and 2004 guidelines with fresh data and recommendations for what organizations can do to prevent violence and assaults.

One step orgs can take is developing a written program for workplace violence prevention, as that “offers an effective approach to reduce or eliminate the risk of violence in the workplace,” the guide states. Building blocks for effective violence prevention programs include:
  • A worksite analysis
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Safety and health training
  • Recordkeeping
  • Management commitment and employee participation
  • Program evaluation

A violence prevention program should be suitable for the size and complexity of your organization, should be adaptable to specific situations, and should be evaluated and reassessed regularly. OSHA also recommends that your organization check for applicable state requirements as well, as a number of states have passed legislation and developed requirements for preventing violence at work. offers helpful information on state legislation. Additionally, here at CPI, we monitor legislation, regulations, requirements, and standards for preventing workplace violence.
The OSHA guide also reinforces the importance of training to protect staff, patients, and clients, as training ensures that “all staff members are aware of potential hazards and how to protect themselves and their coworkers through established policies and procedures.” Training also helps “address potential problems before they arise and ultimately reduce the likelihood of workers being assaulted.” Training topics can include (among others):
  • Early recognition of escalating behavior or recognition of warning signs or situations that may lead to assaults.
  • Ways to recognize, prevent, or diffuse volatile situations or aggressive behavior.
  • Ways to deal with hostile people other than patients and clients, such as relatives and visitors.
  • A standard response action plan for violent situations, including communication procedures and how to summon assistance.
The guide presents a practical, realistic perspective on workplace violence, noting that “violence should be expected but can be avoided or mitigated through preparation.” While not a standard or a regulation, it parallels violence prevention recommendations from organizations such as CMS, The Joint Commission, and CARF for preventing assault and keeping everyone safe.
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