Steps you can take to prevent workplace violence

By Will Morton, staff writer

April 21, 2021 -- Healthcare workers are facing an increased risk of violence on the job. Radiologists on call in emergency departments may feel particularly vulnerable, according to a presentation at the 2021 virtual annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS).

In fact, workers in the healthcare and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience a workplace-violence injury than workers overall, and they accounted for 73% of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses due to violence in 2018.

In addition, according to a recent study by the American Society for Health Care Engineering, the following safety breaches are increasing at hospitals:

  • Violence against staff
  • Incidents of trespassing
  • Patient elopements/patient wandering
  • Issues controlling hospital access
  • Auto thefts/break-ins

In a poster presentation at ARRS 2021, a group led by Dr. Lillian Chiu from New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY, discussed steps that radiology departments can take to mitigate the risk of becoming part of the statistics.

First, there are several strategies individuals can take to mitigate safety risks:

  • Let your co-workers, family, and security know you are working late.
  • Notify someone when you leave.
  • Keep your phone with you at all times and have the hospital security number on speed dial.
  • Utilize safety apps, such as Circle of 6, Scream Alarm, or Red Panic Button, which share your location with trusted contacts or emit loud noises when you are in danger.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, such as emergency exits.
  • Avoid unsecured, poorly lit areas with low foot traffic.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Equip yourself with safety items, such as pepper spray or a whistle.

Hospitals can also implement safety strategies to mitigate security risks for their staff, such as the following:

  • Conduct regular risk assessments to determine how to protect staff.
  • Maintain a workplace violence prevention protocol.
  • Control visitor access by actively monitoring who comes and goes in the radiology areas.
  • Use a visitor management system.
  • Allocate funds for security technology and equipment.
  • Ensure areas are adequately staffed with security personnel and that the personnel are visible.
  • Train staff and security on how to handle safety threats.

Studies suggest the occurrence of workplace violence increases with the duration of night shifts and that emergency departments are particularly susceptible. Up to 28% of emergency department workers have been victims of workplace violence, according to the authors.

"Certain strategies can be implemented in an effort to minimize or counteract security threats," they concluded.

Copyright © 2021

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