GAO: More workplace protection needed

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should do more to protect healthcare employees from workplace violence, according to a federal report.

Citing data that shows healthcare workers face more workplace violence than other professionals, the Government Accountability Office suggests providing more information for inspectors to identify workplace violence and encouraging better follow-up to learn whether facilities correct potential hazards.

The report also recommends assessing existing OSHA efforts to determine if creating additional standards for workplace violence prevention programs might be needed.

The report, issued this spring, estimates 22,250 to 80,710 nonfatal cases of healthcare workplace violence occurred in 2011 alone. A 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.

OSHA agreed with the GAO, the report said, and plans on taking action.