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Health service workers often targets of occupational violence

The men and women, who work in the fields of both healthcare and social services, dedicate their lives to helping others. On a daily basis, healthcare and social services workers encounter men, women and children who are in great pain and desperate need of both physical and mental healing. Unfortunately, for workers the costs associated with helping these individuals can come at a very high and personal expense.

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers within these two industries are "nearly four times more likely to be injured as a result of violence than the average private sector worker."

From actual patients to their family members and significant others, employees who work in both healthcare and social services settings frequently come into contact with individuals who are dealing with a tremendous amount of stress. Add in underlying emotional and mental disturbances and a nurse or social worker can quickly become an easy target for acts of violence.

From 1996 to 2000, a total of 69 health services workers were killed on the job. Additionally, 2000 data indicates that nearly 50 percent of all reported "non-fatal injuries from occupational assaults and violent acts occurred in health care and social services." In addition to the general population that these workers come into contact with on a daily basis, there are several other risk factors that employers must examine and work to address.

In addition to a general lack of training on how to both identify and deal with aggressive or violent patients or members of the public, health services workers often perform job duties in isolation and without access to any communication or safety devices. Another factor contributing to the high numbers of assaults and attacks on these workers relates to the fact that members of the public are often allowed to freely roam throughout hospitals and healthcare facilities without questioning or supervision.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently updated its "Guidelines for Preventing Workplace ViolenceĀ for Healthcare and Social Service Workers." Health services workers who have suffered injuries due to acts of occupational violence may choose to discuss their case with an attorney.

Source: Business Insurance, "OSHA addresses violence in health care, social service industries," Stephanie Goldberg, April 2, 2015

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