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June 15, 2017
New Jersey hospital settles with OSHA in violence case

OSHA and one of the nation’s largest public hospitals have resolved litigation with an agreement that requires the hospital to step up its efforts to prevent violence in the workplace.

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In 2014, OSHA notified the Paramus, New Jersey, facility that employees were exposed to hazardous conditions associated with violence. OSHA claimed the hospital had not developed or implemented adequate measures to protect workers from assaults. While OSHA provided this public hospital with a framework for protecting employees, an early 2015 inspection found that the violence prevention program was inadequate. It had not addressed identified hazards, which continued to jeopardize workers’ safety and health.

As part of the settlement, the hospital will continue making improvements to its workplace violence prevention program, and OSHA will verify that changes are being made. Targeted improvements include maintaining a violence prevention committee, worksite analysis, hazard identification and prevention and/or control, incident reporting, training, recordkeeping and program evaluation. OSHA anticipates that the settlement will have positive long-term safety implications for workers at the Paramus site, while highlighting the need for compliance among other healthcare providers.

For healthcare workers, the threat of violence is real

According to OSHA’s most recent statistics, incidents of serious workplace violence (those requiring days off) were four times more common in health care than in private industry. The sector had 7.8 cases of serious workplace violence per 10,000 full-time employees. Other large employment sectors, like construction, manufacturing, and retail, had fewer than two cases per 10,000 employees.

While patients are the largest source of violence in healthcare settings, they are not the only cause. According to OSHA, 80 percent of incidents are caused by interactions with patients, while others are attributed to visitors, coworkers, or other people.

The industry has some unique cultural factors that may contribute to underreporting or acceptance of violence. For example, caregivers often feel a professional and ethical duty to “do no harm” to patients. They may even put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient. In some healthcare professions, workers consider violence to be part of the job.

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