There’s no question but that healthcare workers face a growing threat of violence from patients while going about their day-to-day jobs. In a 2015 survey, the International Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation reported a 40% increase in violent crime from 2012 to 2014, with more than 10,000 violent incidents mostly directed at employees. High stress, armed patients and visitors, drug and alcohol intoxication, mental health issues and more all contribute to an increasingly dangerous environment. OSHA reports that:
From 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents (those requiring days off for an injured worker to recuperate) was more than four times greater in healthcare than in private industry on average. In fact, healthcare accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined.
Recently, Susannah Levine reported on the challenge that healthcare facilities face in her Risk & Insurance article, Hospitals Struggle with Security Risks. The article discusses the pros and cons of an armed approach to healthcare security, as well as the insurance implications of various risk management and security measures. Liability insurance may be a determining factor as to whether healthcare facilities opt for armed security or rely on less lethal tools like Tasers and sprays.
“Barry Kramer, senior vice president, Chivaroli & Associates, a health care insurance broker, said that armed security in health care settings is more of a risk management concern than a coverage issue.
“It would be highly unusual for our clients’ liability policies to exclude claims involving security guards, whether or not they’re armed with guns,” he said.
He said many health care risk managers are not equipped to manage exposures associated with licensing and certifying guards or registering the facility’s own firearms.
For facilities that lack the bandwidth to manage, train and track certifications for in-house security staff, Kramer said,third-party vendors, such as local law enforcement or private security companies, can be contracted, since they have firearms experience as well as liability insurance coverage.”
In February, the New York Times discussed various approaches and philosophies that healthcare facilities employ to mitigate risk. The article by Elisabeth Rosenthal – When the Hospital Fires the Bullet – centers on the case of a 26-year-old mental health patient who was shot by police in a Houston hospital. In the course of the article, Roenthal presents various approaches to security:
To protect their corridors, 52 percent of medical centers reported that their security personnel carried handguns and 47 percent said they used Tasers, according to a 2014 national survey. That was more than double estimates from studies just three years before. Institutions that prohibit them argue that such weapons — and security guards not adequately trained to work in medical settings — add a dangerous element in an already tense environment. They say many other steps can be taken to address problems, particularly with people who have a mental illness.
Rosenthal contrasts the approach of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, where the strongest weapons its security officers carry is pepper spray to that of the Cleveland Clinic, which has its own fully armed police force and also employs off-duty officers.
Guns in hospitals
Meanwhile, as risk managers struggle with the dilemma of whether to arm or not to arm, patients and visitors are often armed, enabled by state and local gun laws – just one more factor that healthcare facilities are coping with. At of the beginning of the year, Texas law allows for guns in state mental health hospitals. Campus Safety Magazine reports on how Kansas College Hospitals are preparing to allow guns on campus to comply with a new law. Gun laws in health systems vary by state – while a federal law bars guns from schools, there is no such law about firearms in hospitals.
Healthcare Violence Prevention Resources
OSHA: Worker Safety in Hospitals – Caring for our Caregivers
OSHA: Preventing Workplace Violence: A Road Map for Healthcare Facilities
OSHA: Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers
Mitigating Workplace Violence at Ambulatory Care Sites
Emergency Department Violence Fact Sheet
Healthcare Crime Survey 2015
Prior related posts
More perils for healthcare workers
Violence in healthcare: 61% of all workplace assaults are committed by healthcare patients
Report on violence & aggression to Maine’s caregivers; Injuries include bites, kicks, being hit