Preventing Workplace Violence
Feb 01, 2017
We all know violence in healthcare exists, and has for decades, but rarely does it get the attention that it deserves. Healthcare workers in Manitoba are very familiar with this problem because violence in their workplaces is on the rise.
Workplace violence includes everything from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. The Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Act defines violence as “(a) the attempted or actual exercise of physical force against a person and (b) any threatening statement or behavior that gives a person reasonable cause to believe that physical force will be used against the person.”
Manitoba Workers Compensation Board (WCB) data indicate that healthcare workers in acute care, residential care and community care were the victims of violence that resulted in injuries causing workers to lose time from work. The graph below details the number of lost time injuries per year in these sectors that are reported to the WCB. Unfortunately, many more incidents go unreported.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – this kind of violence can be prevented or minimized when employers undertake risk assessments and implement appropriate precautions.
A well-written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of violence. Healthcare employers must establish zero-tolerance policies, and they must report and address violence that stems from patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with workers.
These policies must also detail methods for assessing personal interaction and workplaces must make efforts to identify potential risks for violence, while developing methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring. Risk factors to consider include working with persons that have a known history of being violent or of unstable or volatile behaviour.
All “healthcare facilities” as defined in the regulations must develop comprehensive violence prevention programs. These include hospitals and residential and community care settings where violence has been determined to exist or is reasonably anticipated. The risk factors vary between facilities, wards, units, and homes, so no universal strategy to prevent violence can be used.
This also means that employers must properly train workers in the violence prevention program. The regulation requires the program to include detail with respect to reporting incidents of violence, investigation procedures and corrective measures to prevent further incidents.
In accordance with these legislative requirements, and recognizing the prevalence of violence in healthcare, the Manitoba government developed a provincial violence prevention strategy several years ago. On April 29, 2013, Manitoba Health approved the Violence Prevention Program for Healthcare Workers in Manitoba policy. This policy applies to Regional Health Authorities, Health Corporations, CancerCare Manitoba, and Diagnostic Services Manitoba. It is designed to ensure that when followed, the minimum requirements of Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health legislation, accreditation standards, and applicable collective agreements are met and – wherever possible – exceeded.
The intent of the policy is to implement a systematic and comprehensive program for the prevention of healthcare related violence toward healthcare workers in Manitoba. Efforts must be made to mitigate, eliminate or reduce all forms of violence in workplaces where healthcare services are provided. Where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of violence, actions and measures will be taken to control that risk.
The policy requires that every reasonable effort will be made to mitigate, eliminate or reduce all forms of workplace violence and to ensure the following:
a violence-free workplace for all individuals’ health, safety, welfare, and
dignity is respected, protected and promoted;
risks of violence are identified and appropriate prevention measures, controls,
and practices are established that eliminate or minimize those risks;
documented procedures are established to identify and address specific hazards
and the associated risks for each workplace or area;
workers are trained in and follow the necessary safety procedures to prevent
and respond to violence-related incidents;
workers are empowered to make and act on decisions regarding the risk of
violence to protect themselves and others;
- That critical incident debriefing and other supports to
workers affected by a workplace violence incident are available and accessible ;
- That all individuals including workers, contractors,
volunteers, and management understand their roles and responsibilities related
to violence prevention in the healthcare environment and are held accountable;
- That all clients and visitors are expected to follow the violence-free
- That all employers and its supervisors comply with the policy
and its requirements; and
- That programs will be evaluated at appropriate intervals and that
sustainability measures are implemented.
If you work in healthcare, check to see if your employer has implemented this strategy or has plans to do so. If not, speak with your workplace safety representative to ensure that your employer is aware of the necessity of a comprehensive strategy like this. It is the only way that we can work to reduce the troubling trend of healthcare workplace violence in Manitoba.
Blaine Duncan is a Safety and Health Specialist at the MGEU and a member of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Matters Relating to Safety and Health.
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