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Healthcare workers face the danger of physical violence

Many people equate workers’ compensation with a single-instance accident such as a slip-and-fall or being struck by a falling object. Healthcare workers, however, face those dangers plus those involving repetitive stress injuries and exposure to diseases. A new danger, unfortunately, has also become a growing trend – physical violence from patients and patients’ families.

Many healthcare facilities have increased safety measures by adding metal detectors and armed guards inspecting all bags coming into the building. Healthcare workers are used to experiencing verbal abuse from patients who are upset about a diagnosis, emotionally unbalanced due to an illness or disoriented because of medication. Unfortunately, serious injuries can occur when those verbal altercations become physical.

Violent physical outbursts can result in devastating injuries such as broken bones, lacerations, soft tissue damage, muscle strains, torn ligaments, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord damage. Depending on the severity and the duration of the altercation, these can become life-changing events. While many healthcare workers adhere to a code of silence rooted in pride and the use of de-escalation techniques, it is time to begin speaking up.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), incidents of serious workplace violence are four times more common in the healthcare industry than in other private industries. The results of a recent poll illustrate the extent of the problem: nearly half of emergency physician respondents reported being physically assaulted on the job.

Various labor unions across the nation have started pushing for a law giving OSHA more authority to monitor hospital safety. If you were injured by a patient in a healthcare facility, it is crucial that you discuss your situation with a skilled workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your legal options.