Every year nearly 2 million American workers are exposed to violence in the workplace. Astonishing as it sounds, experts say it’s just a fraction of the cases that take place; many incidents are never reported. The propensity for violence in the workplace has escalated in recent years, and notably in healthcare. From verbal abuse to physical violence, harassment, intimidation, and even homicide, healthcare and social service workers face threats to their safety at a more frequent rate than other professions.
Statistics from a 2013 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed that between 2002 and 2013 incidents of serious workplace violence were four times more common in healthcare than in private industry on average. Eighty percent of the documented healthcare reports revealed patients as the aggressors. Co-workers, visitors, and clients rounded out the remaining 20 percent.
Protecting your employees from workplace violence is a balancing act. Implementing a no tolerance policy is a good line of defense. If you don’t already have a policy in place, start by identifying risk factors. Then, take appropriate precautions such as writing and implementing policies and procedures to help prevent and minimize risks.
Effective Ways to Address Workplace Violence in Your Medical Practice
To help curb the incidence of violence in the workplace OSHA recommends a well-written Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Making it an integral part of your compliance program is a necessity. If you already have one in place it’s important to review it periodically to address any new concerns. When writing and implementing the program follow the guidelines below.
- Create and implement a zero tolerance policy addressing workplace violence, verbal and nonverbal threats, and other related actions. State the consequences and disciplinary actions taken when violated. Disseminate the policy to managers and supervisors and have them discuss it with their employees. Communicate the policy publically to clients, patients, and visitors through your organization’s website. Placing a paper version of the policy in a visible location like the reception area works well too. A well-communicated public policy addressing workplace violence also helps the organization establish credibility.
- Safeguard employees from retaliation by keeping all information confidential.
- Be proactive. Encourage employees to report an incident immediately. Talk to them about the types of incidents that fall under workplace violence. Suggest and discuss ways to reduce and eliminate future risks. Assess risks and measure progress by documenting all incidents.
- A comprehensive security plan is essential to maintaining workplace security. To strengthen security establish a liaison with local law enforcement and fire district personnel. They can help you identify additional ways to prevent and mitigate workplace violence.
- The medical office manager has many responsibilities. But this is one that you don’t have to do alone. Making it a team effort can produce positive outcomes. Use your authority and discretion to assign responsibility of the program’s enforcement to either individuals or teams that possess the appropriate training and skills. Providing adequate resources, education, and training will help keep your prevention program up-to-date and your employees engaged. For active participation allocate funds in the budget for training and workshops related to workplace violence issues and prevention.
Protect Your Employees from Workplace Violence
Preventing workplace violence is addressed in the compliance module of the CMOM certification program. It includes information on how to develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Program tailored specifically to your practice. Learn more and enroll now.