GAO calls for increased violence protection for healthcare workers

A new federal report is calling for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to step up its efforts to protect healthcare workers from workplace violence.

The report, published in March but released online last week by the Government Accountability Office, cites data that shows workers in healthcare facilities have the highest rates of workplace violence compared to other professions. While the full extent of the issue and its subsequent costs are unknown, the most recent data shows anywhere from 22,250 to 80,710 nonfatal cases of healthcare workplace violence occurring in 2011 alone, the GAO said.

The GAO report highlights three areas where OSHA could improve its education and enforcement efforts to help healthcare providers cut down on the number of workplace violence incidents. They are”

  • Providing inspectors with additional information to help develop workplace violence or hazard citations during inspections

  • Following up on hazard alert letters to see if facilities have corrected potential hazards for workplace violence

  • Assessing its current efforts to determine whether additional action, such as developing a standard for healthcare providers to implement workplace violence prevention programs, may be needed

OSHA agreed with GAO's recommendations, the report said, and plans on taking action to address the agency's recommendations. In December, OSHA released online resources to help healthcare providers prevent workplace violence.

A recent survey of nearly 4,000 registered nurses found that almost one-fourth had experienced some form of physical assault at work by a patient or a patient's family member. The most common forms of healthcare workplace violence include hitting, kicking and beating, GAO said.

Click here to read the full GAO report, “Additional Efforts Needed to Help Protect Health Care Workers from Workplace Violence.”