Preventing Workplace Violence in Mental Health Facilities

September 6, 2018

Workplace violence continues to be an increasingly alarming problem, especially in the health industry, which accounts for three-quarters of all assaults. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are four times more reports of workplace violence in the healthcare industry than in any other.

Mental Health Facilities are High Risk

Workplace violence often takes place in mental health facilities. Patients may attempt to commit acts of violence with weapons smuggled in to the facility by either themselves or their visitors. If a mental health patient manages to get hold of a knife, gun, lighter or other dangerous contraband, he or she can cause serious injury to staff or other patients.

Modern Healthcare article identifies violence in the healthcare industry as a growing problem. Many facilities lack adequate space; therefore, patients are being boarded in acute care facilities for extended periods of time. This, along with overcrowding, can lead to more outbursts and an overall increase in workplace violence incidents.

When community-based care facilities are overcrowded, some patients are sent to local hospitals, which may then experience an increase in workplace violence incidents.

Security Measures are Ineffectual

Some mental health facilities rely on in-house training of their own employees to prevent security issues, while others also seek assistance from hospital security and local police. Current security methods vary from facility to facility; however, few of them are proving to be effective.

For example, manual screening for contraband, either by pat-down or using a hand-held wand, has only managed to detect five percent of prohibited items, according to a study published in Medicine, Science and the Law.

Mental health facilities still struggle to strike the right balance between workplace safety and patient comfort. Manual screening procedures can feel like an invasion of personal space to mental health patients, who may consequently be provoked to violence. Screening officers are also at risk of sustaining needlestick injuries, which can lead to bloodborne diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

A Proposed Solution

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2010, healthcare workers and social assistance workers were the victims of approximately 11,370 assaults, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

There may now be a way to ensure those numbers go down – implementing the use of ferromagnetic detection systems (FMDS).

FMDS uses passive sensors to detect magnetic items as small as needles. Unlike metal detectors, FMDS does not interfere with pacemakers or other medical devices, making it safer to use. It can also be used by anyone without extensive training, as is often required for pat-down screenings.

FMDS is also battery-operated, and has a considerably small footprint, so it can be used almost anywhere in the facility, while workers keep a safe distance from potentially violent mental health patients.

While manual screenings only detected five percent of contraband items in the Medicine, Science and Law study, that same study found that FMDS detected 100 percent. With the ever-increasing instances of workplace violence and other security concerns, mental health facilities may want to consider using FMDS to keep staff and patients safe.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Represent Victims of Workplace Violence

If you were the victim of workplace violence, contact a skilled and compassionate Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. We represent clients in Berks CountyBucks CountyChester CountyDelaware CountyMontgomery CountyPhiladelphia County and throughout Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.

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