Five steps to workplace violence prevention

Protecting workers requires collaboration, says Patti Boucher, VP of client and consulting services for the Ontario Safety Association for Community & Healthcare. Consider this five-step approach to violence prevention.

Senior leadership commitment is key, says Boucher. The most senior leader in the organization should assign a senior member of the management team to take responsibility for program development. This needs to be supported with appropriate financial resources. Establish a multidisciplinary steering committee involving the JHSC, unions, frontline workers, educators and senior leadership.

Risk assessment. Perform a comprehensive risk assessment. “It’s making sure that you understand your environment, your surrounding community, looking at the type of incidents that you’re experiencing at your workplace and analyzing them to find out what the greatest area of risk is,” says Boucher. For health care organizations, the types of patients and clients they’re caring for, as well as the care strategies they’re using should be part of the risk assessment.

Policy development. Define violence and properly categorize the different types as part of your prevention policy. There are four categories of violence that should be clearly defined within the policy: criminal intent, where a perpetrator has no relationship with the organization; patient- or client-provoked violence; worker-to-worker violence, and; domestic violence that affects and occurs at the workplace. Included in this third level of approach are all the associated procedures that tie in with the policy: reporting, emergency response and investigation.

Communicate, market, educate. Implementing a workplace violence prevention program requires a cultural shift. Invest in ensuring that policies and procedures are communicated thoroughly, using various forums, to all persons concerned – staff, physicians, families and visitors, among others.

Evaluate. This is key to ensuring the program has achieved its objectives, which is to safeguard staff and client safety. With staff training, for example, there needs to be a “program infrastructure” to help establish the effectiveness of the training, says Boucher. “If you are just training workers and you don’t have the accompanying program that documents the policies, the procedures and the way that you approach care, following up and observing the way that they’re providing care…then you are not going to sustain the effect of the education.”