OSHA updates guidance for protecting health-care, social service workers from workplace violence

In 2013, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 23,000 significant injuries due to assault at work. More than 70 per cent of these assaults were in health-care and social service settings.
Health-care and social service workers are almost four times as likely to be injured as a result of violence than the average private sector worker. To reduce the risk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released an update to its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers. The publication includes industry best practices and highlights the most effective ways to reduce the risk of violence in various health-care and social service settings.

"It is unacceptable that the people who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones often work in fear of injury or death," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labour for Occupational Safety and Health. "This updated booklet will help employers implement effective measures to reduce or eliminate workplace violence hazards."

The revised guidelines — which update OSHA's 1996 and 2004 guidelines — incorporate research in the last decade into the causes of workplace violence on health-care and social service settings, risk factors that accompany working with patients or clients who display violent behaviour and the appropriate preventive measures that can be taken, amid the variety of settings in which health-care and social service employees work. The guidelines also stress the importance of developing a written workplace violence prevention program. The program should include management commitment and employee participation, work site analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and recordkeeping and program evaluation.

More information on violence prevention in all workplace settings is available on OSHA's workplace violence web page.