According to OSHA, workplace violence is far more common in the healthcare field than it is in the rest of private industry. How much more common? About four times more common, according to 2002 – 2013 data about incidents of workplace violence that required days off of work. Even worse, it’s on the rise.
“It is an epidemic that nobody speaks about,” says the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. “Yet it strains those who are trying to help others. It is very disconcerting to have well-meaning people who dedicated their lives and their careers being put in harm’s way by trying to help others.”
In 2017, 18,400 intentional workplace injuries were reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those, 71% came from the healthcare and social assistance sectors. Again, these incidents were only counted if they resulted in days away from work.
In 2018, the Cleveland Clinic confiscated some 30,000 weapons from visitors and patients in its Northeast Ohio system. These included firearms, edged weapons, stun guns, pepper spray, and even screwdrivers. In 2016, the clinic began installing metal detectors in its emergency departments, and the vast majority of weapons are caught by those metal detectors.
Each hospital or clinic chooses for itself how best to respond to violence against its workers. Beyond metal detectors, many have police patrolling the exterior and posted in strategic areas inside. There is security technology, both to monitor activity and to give doctors and nurses panic buttons as a way to call for help. Most buildings have areas where an employee badge is necessary to enter. Others rely on emergency preparedness and de-escalation training.
When it comes to the safety of their staff, patients and visitors, hospitals and clinics have choices to make. Since rapid access to care is crucial, they can’t put too many barriers in place. There is a balance of safety and access.
Workplace violence is covered by workers’ compensation
If you’re a healthcare worker who has been injured by violence, you should know that you have a valid workers’ compensation claim. You don’t have to prove that your employer was negligent or made the wrong choice when balancing safety with access to care. You don’t have to sue.
In fact, the workers’ comp system is set up so that, in most cases, you can’t sue your employer for a workplace injury. In exchange, they can’t deny coverage when you were innocently injured at work — even in the case of violence by a third party.