Compliance » Threat Of Violence Rampant In Healthcare, And OSHA May Step In

Threat Of Violence Rampant In Healthcare, And OSHA May Step In

March 14, 2023

Illustration of a diverse group of health care workers, all wearing scrubs, standing in a group facing the viewer.

Violence directed against healthcare workers, already alarming before the COVID pandemic, has gotten worse. A post from law firm Ogletree Deakins says it now appears that OSHA is setting itself up to address the issue.

The Ogletree post, citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, says violence against healthcare workers increased more than 60 percent from 2011 to 2018, and healthcare and social service workers were five times more likely to experience workplace violence than workers overall. More recent data, according to a post from AAMC News (from the Association of American Medical Colleges) says violence directed against hospital staff increased with the pandemic starting in 2020, and last year almost half of nurses reported an increase, more than double the percentage from the year previous. In Chicago, a recent survey found about a quarter of doctors had been “personally attacked” on social media. The AAMC post includes disturbing accounts, e.g., an episode in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a patient angry after a back operation didn’t relieve his pain walked into a healthcare facility and shot the surgeon dead, along with another doctor, a receptionist and a visitor. The Ogletree post reports that the Department of Labor’s “Statement of Regulatory Priorities,” released in January this year, indicates that OSHA is moving toward rulemaking on a workplace violence standard for the healthcare industry.

As dangerous as healthcare work has become for hospital and clinic personnel, it could be worse in the home healthcare sector. An article in Forbes reports that a chronic shortage of home care workers is now exacerbated by the risk of violence. It may come from family members, neighborhood street criminals, and even from patients themselves. Home care work is already dangerous in terms of injury risk, mostly back injuries. In that sense it’s more dangerous than coal-mining, the Forbes article reports. Unlike coal-mining, however, home health largely fills its ranks with immigrants and/or people of color and the pay is bare minimum. The median hourly wage for 2021 is said to have been $14.15.

According to a  recent post from Becker’s Hospital Review , there are currently no less than eight pending bills that are intended to address safety for healthcare workers. Two are federal, and the rest are from states. The article provides an update. -Today’s General Counsel/DR

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