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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

OSHA Issues New Violence Prevention Strategies for Healthcare

By Gary Evans, Senior Staff Writer

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled a new webpage today with tools and real-world examples to prevent and defuse violent incidents in healthcare settings.

Violence prevention should be incorporated into the broader efforts of employee health, patient safety and even infection control, OSHA recommends. Increasingly, healthcare facilities are integrating their patient and worker safety programs, managing them together using a common framework.

“Doing so makes sense, because many of the risk factors that affect patient safety also affect workers,” OSHA says on the website. “For instance, a violent confrontation or intervention can result in injuries to both workers and patients, and caregiver fatigue, injury, and stress are tied to a higher risk of medication errors and patient infections.”

The new strategies and tools focus on workplace violence prevention programs that include elements such as management commitment and worker participation; worksite analysis and hazard identification; hazard prevention and control; safety and health training; and recordkeeping and ongoing program evaluation.

For example, at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, CT, each day begins with a “safety huddle” led by a senior executive. Representatives from all departments, including both clinical and non-clinical services, are required to attend. Together they review any patient or associate safety events or concerns, recognize “good catches” (aka “near-misses”), and share updates on the status of safety-related projects or initiatives.

“These daily exchanges, fostered in an open, no-blame environment, help create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation,” OSHA reports.

There are strategies for specific patient encounters as well, such as “tapping out” when a patient is becoming increasingly irritated with the healthcare worker trying to provide care. At Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, MA, workers are encouraged to recognize this type of situation and “tap in” by telling the first worker something like “You have a phone call—and it’s your supervisor.”

Sometimes all it takes is a new face to get a patient to calm down, and an emphasis on “caring language” allows the first worker to exit the situation gracefully. “This type of focus on collaboration and respectful language is a hallmark of a “culture of safety,” OSHA says.

For more on this story see the January 2016 issue of Hospital Employee Health