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Ways to Recognize, Prevent Risk of Assault to Hospital Employees

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
May 9, 2002

Although hospital employees are more likely to be assaulted on the job than the average worker, administrators and staff can reduce the risk by taking strategic preventive steps, a new document from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests.

The document, “Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals,” highlights factors that put hospital workers at risk of assault from patients, intruders, and others, and outlines practical preventive measures.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some 8.3 assaults per every 10,000 workers occurred in 1999 among hospital employees, compared with 2 assaults per every 10,000 workers for all private sector industries, the NIOSH document notes. Factors that may increase risk of violence for hospital employees include: working directly with volatile individuals, staffing patterns, crowded waiting rooms, long waits for service, inadequate security, and poor environmental design.

Risk of violence will vary for individual hospitals, depending on the location, size, and type of care provided. The NIOSH document recommends that individual hospitals develop safety programs that include management commitment to safety, employee participation, identification of hazards, employee training, and hazard prevention, control, and reporting. Examples of practical preventive measures include the following:

  • Install security devices, emergency alarms, and other safety features.
  • Design waiting areas to accommodate and assist visitors and patients who may experience delays in service.
  • Design staffing patterns to prevent employees from working alone, and to minimize patients’ waiting time.
  • Use card-controlled access systems to restrict public movement in hospitals.
  • Provide staff with training in recognizing and managing risk of assault, resolving conflicts, and maintaining their awareness of hazards.

Violence: Occupational Hazards in Hospitals” is designed to be an on-site resource for employers and workers. Copies of the document, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-101, are available from the NIOSH toll-free information number 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or from the NIOSH web page