Workplace Violence Prevention & Response – Within Healthcare & Beyond

IRI Podcast episode on workplace violence

In the United States, there are roughly 2 million victims of workplace violence each year – and recent data shows that healthcare and social service workers are five times more likely to be subjected to workplace violence than workers in any other industry. However, in general, and in every industry, the pressures of work and home life, combined now with the ongoing stresses surrounding the pandemic, the economy, and the political and social divisions within our country seem to be setting the stage for increased violence within our workplaces. Today’s guest is William Marcisz, President and Chief Consultant for Strategic Security Management Consulting. Here, he explains:

  • The industries most at risk for workplace violence;
  • Why both covert and overt safety measures should be used in preventing workplace violence;
  • The Joint Commission's new workplace violence prevention standards, and how they apply to all accredited and critical access hospitals; and
  • The value of third-party security assistance!


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 

 

Defining Workplace Violence

  • Workplace violence incidents/behaviors may include, but are not limited to: 
    • Verbal or written harassment;
    • Bullying (including cyberbullying);
    • Sexual harassment;
    • Physical or sexual assault.

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Factors of Workplace Violence

  • Industries most at risk:
    • Healthcare;
    • Law enforcement;
    • Anyone working in the service industry. 
  • There has been an increase in violence in the workplace since the pandemic began, particularly in the healthcare industry. Workplace violence has increased 10-40% in some organizations.
  • Those working remotely have their own set of issues regarding workplace violence.
    • Being outside of the building eliminates certain types of violence, such as some employee vs. employee issues. However, working remotely still allows for more virtual connections such as calling and messaging, where violence can occur.
    • There are also some employees who may not be safe in their home, and may live in an abusive home. These issues are important for the employer to recognize to make sure employees have a safe environment to work in, even if it is remotely.

The Importance of Protecting Workers

  • OSHA’s general duty clause holds employers accountable for employees that are victims of workplace violence. This includes legal liability if something happens in the workplace, and the employee files a lawsuit.
  • Juries are coming back with multimillion dollar settlements in negligent security issues regarding workplace safety.
  • Zero-tolerance policies are important for employers to communicate with their staff. These policies say “we care about you” – however, without effective prevention programs, zero-tolerance policies become statements. 
    • It is necessary for employers to take action to support employees, and to have workplace violence programs in place, to make sure these statements are effective.

How to Prevent Violence in the Workplace

  • Solutions to preventing workplace violence are overt and covert:
    • Overt security measures could be having a standing security force with a physical presence in the workplace, such as having security guards.
      • Hospitals often have security officers, cameras, and K-9s to prevent workplace violence in healthcare
    • Covert measures are built-in processes to handle disputes and violence. 
      • This includes training and education in de-escalation and crisis management.
  • Some processes in the workplace are driven by fiscal or tangible goals, whereas safety and security measures can get neglected because it does not drive revenue. It is important to recognize safety benchmarks and metrics, and use that to drive high-level employees to initiate more security measures in the workplace.

Responding to Workplace Violence

  • The type of response that is warranted to an incident of violence in the workplace depends on the type of violence and the severity of the incident.
  • The most important thing to do when an act of workplace violence occurs is to address it.
    • This includes understanding how the affected person was impacted, how they act following the incident, and recgnizing that an event took place.
  • Employers should also look for disengaged staff exploiting the concept of safety as a way to drive a wedge between management and employees. 
  • Companies may wish to create or engage a Threat Assessment Team, trained in workplace violence incidents, to provide guidance on what can be done to prevent violence in the workplace.

Workplace Violence in Healthcare

  • Hospitals can be an especially stressful place for all parties, creating a lot of anxiety and emotions. They are also a place with a higher risk of behavioral or substance abuse issues. Additionally, there could be more victims of domestic violence present in a healthcare setting.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has not only been a stressful time for healthcare workers by being on the frontlines, but also from continually trying to enforce safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID to high-risk patients - which has also made people working in healthcare environment more at risk of workplace violence.
  • According to the International Association for Healthcare, Safety, and Security, and the Security Annual Crime Survey, 85% of workplace violence in healthcare is committed against staff by patients or visitors.
    • This has required more overt types of security measures to be taken in hospitals, and necessitates more healthcare settings to use deterrence and prevention strategies to address workplace violence.
    • Hospitals typically invest in closed circuit televisions, K-9s and security offers to de-escalate potentially violent situations. 
  • As of January 1st, 2022, new workplace violence prevention standards that were applied to all Joint Commission accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals.
    • These standards hold senior leadership accountable to make sure employees are trained in workplace violence prevention, to make sure security and hazard control systems are in place, and to make sure incidents of violence are being reported and investigated.
    • The standards also hold HR departments accountable to make sure training is completed for employees at all levels, especially in healthcare settings with employees who are at increased risk for a violent encounter (such as employees that work in an emergency room or behavioral health unit).
    • It is essential that incidents of workplace violence are documented and investigated, and that metrics are looked at by a quality team or board of directors.
  • Many hospitals have created a position within their administration for a workplace violence manager, and Mr. Marcisz says this is a worthwhile investment for hospitals. Workplace violence management is a problem that everyone should care about, and needs a multidisciplinary approach.

The Value of Third-Party Security Assistance

  • Third-party consultants are able to provide fresh eyes to a situation of violence and workplace security.
  • Mr. Marcsiz recommends that companies bring in an independent consultant who specializes in workplace violence at least once every five years to evaluate your security program.
    • It is especially recommended for healthcare settings where safety is so critical, and because violence and security are so intertwined.
  • Using a third-party security consultant also provides strong defense in the case of a lawsuit because it shows the company has been through an accreditation process and sought expert recommendation.

Strategic Security Management Consulting

  • Strategic Security Management Consulting (SSMC) is a full-service security consulting firm.
  • Clients cross all industries, including healthcare, hospitality, casinos, schools, apartment complexes, and more.
  • Services include vulnerability assessments, security risk assessments, expert witness services, and virtual consulting surrounding workplace violence.

William Marcisz Background

  • Doctor of Law (JD), Law from University of Connecticut School of Law
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration from Western Connecticut State University
  • Mr. Marcisz has spent the majority of his career managing security for healthcare systems, including Danbury Health Systems, Kootenai Health, Florida Hospital, and AdventHealth Central Florida
  • Currently, he is the President and Chief Consultant for Strategic Security Management Consulting.

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About the Author Jacqueline Gregory

A 20+ year media veteran, Jacqui has produced custom communications for some of the world's best-known brands. Producing ProjectHR has been one of her favorite ways to engage and delight HR and Labor Relations professionals!

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