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Preventing Workplace Violence in the Human and Social Services Industry

OSHA describes workplace violence as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”


Workplace violence is the third most common cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.


OSHA has stated that employees who provide healthcare or social assistance are at a substantially high risk of workplace violence. In fact, they have reported that the number of incidents resulting in employees’ time off work was four times more than private industries on average. Unfortunately, there are even more threats and assaults that are unreported.


Workplace violence workers’ compensation claims come at a high cost to employers, which is why it’s important to implement strategies and programs to prevent such incidents. The physical and emotional toll these incidents can have on an employee can lead to staff shortage, the need to recruit and hire, training temporary workers or replacements. These all impact an organization’s bottom line in addition to paying for the workers’ compensation claim itself.


Zero-Tolerance Policies
Arguably one of the most important features of a workplace violence prevention strategy is a zero-tolerance policy. This means that no matter the details, any incident that qualifies as workplace violence will be investigated. This type of policy should apply to anyone in a facility, including employees, clients, visitors, vendors and anyone else on the grounds.


Proactive Training
An important component of a workplace violence prevention strategy is proper training before employees face client aggression and violent incidents take place. Equipping employees with training in trauma-informed care and de-escalation strategies can prevent acts of violence and reduce the physical contact with the client. This makes for a better environment and less risk for both client and employee.


Early Intervention
When it comes to workplace violence, even close calls should be reported. These are opportunities to identify risks and prevent close calls from becoming actual acts of workplace violence in the future. It can also help in improving existing processes or procedures to make them safer.


Environmental Changes
There are several ways that organizations can make their workplace physically safer. Security cameras, mirrors and improved lighting are all ways to improve visibility. Removing or replacing furnishings that could be used as weapons can improve safety. Additionally, installing panic buttons can be help other staff intervene and prevent escalation of a violent act. Changing floor plans and restricting access to particular areas can allow for improved accessibility to exits and separation from clients in higher risk situations.


By joining an alternative workers’ compensation insurance program like Hearten, organizations have access to experts in safety and risk management. They also are joining other best-in-class organizations in their industry from whom they can learn different techniques and strategies. With such a focused pulse on the patterns and trends in the human and social services industry, Hearten members can ultimately reduce their risk, workers’ compensation claims and premium.

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