The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new guidance on Friday to help healthcare and social service workers better protect themselves from workplace violence.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27 out of the 100 fatalities in the healthcare and social service fields in 2013 were due to assaults and violent acts.
But the number of non-fatal assaults that resulted in serious injuries was far greater.
Between 2011 and 2013, OSHA said workplace assaults ranged from 23,540 to 25,630 annually, with 70 to 74 percent occurring in healthcare and social service settings.
Workers who are at the greatest risk include those who work directly with gang members and with people who have a history of violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. Those who transport patients and clients; work alone in a facility or a patient’s home; work in areas with poorly lit corridors, rooms, parking lots and other areas; and without a way to contact emergency services are also at a higher risk of violence.
The guidance released Friday says employers should have written programs for workplace violence prevention incorporated into their overall safety and health programs.
OSHA said employers should conduct a workplace assessment to find existing or potential hazards that may lead to incidents, take the appropriate steps to prevent or control the hazards that were identified and educate and train employees on how to better protect themselves.
“It is unacceptable that the people who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones often work in fear of injury or death,” OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said in a news release. “This updated booklet will help employers implement effective measures to reduce or eliminate workplace violence hazards.”
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. The new guidance updates OSHA’s 1996 and 2004 guidelines.