Protecting Health Care Workers From Violence
Most of us have seen it happen to a colleague or been on the receiving end of abuse from an upset patient, family member or some other individual. Inevitably, we ask ourselves the following questions:
- What happened and how did it escalate to this level?
- Was it something I did?
- Was it something another physician or caregiver did or didn’t do?
- What signs did I miss?
- How can I be more observant and prepare for this in the future?
I’m talking about workplace violence in health care settings.
Workplace violence is considered any act or threat of physical violence, verbal harassment, intimidation or other disorderly behavior. These actions are often stressful, frustrating and can be physically harmful.
Many state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) departments believe that a well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention program, with top-down guidance and staff training can reduce workplace violence.
It is essential that all workers understand the policy and know that all allegations of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.
Health care workers face an increased risk of work-related assaults stemming from several factors. Some include:
- Patient frustration over service delays.
- Burglaries of drugs or money from health care offices.
- A growing proximity of gang members, addicts, or distraught family members to patients.
- A growing frequency of weapons possession.
- Fluctuations in staffing levels. Some attacks happen when staff is on a meal break or attending to other patients.
- A lack of staff training in recognizing and managing escalating types of violent behavior.
The risk of assault can be minimized or prevented if employers take appropriate precautions. One of the best protections that can be offered to health care workers is for their workplace to establish a zero tolerance policy toward any workplace violence. The policy must cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors and anyone else who may come in contact with personnel of the facility.
Having a zero-tolerance policy can assist staff members with common situations that may arise. Staff should be well-versed in conflict resolution during stressful situations. This will require training. Some of these policies should incorporate:
- A written program for workplace violence, safety and security that should be incorporated into the office safety and health program.
- Clear goals and objectives to prevent workplace violence that should be adaptable to specific situations in each department or location.
- Responsibility for the program with individuals or teams through appropriate training and skills.
- Adequate resources for this effort and the team.
- A patient acknowledgment of “rights and responsibilities” including the facility’s zero-tolerance policy as it relates to verbal or physical abuse towards all staff, patients, or visitors.
A well-prepared workplace violence policy is a crucial and essential component of workplace safety. With this in place, educated staff members can evaluate and recognize potentially threatening situations and feel comfortable knowing they have the tools and the administrative support to professionally take control of a situation, if necessary. Some of these methods also provide employees with adaptable strengths to maintain safe working conditions, improve morale, safety and effectiveness.
The Snow Keeps Falling and the Snow Has Won
This season, municipalities across the northern regions of the United States have been inundated with snow and lots more is coming our way. Our overtime budgets are strapped and for the life of us we can’t seem to find enough salt or sand to help pave the roads throughout our communities.
It’s telling that Punxsutawney Phil not only saw his shadow this year earmarking another six weeks of winter, but that he tried to take a snip at his handler. One might gather he’s as sick and tired of beating back the weather as every snowplow operator across the United States.
Public risk managers are drowning in snowplow vehicular accidents, sheared mailboxes and damage from pockmarked roadways.
We know of the dangers and fear for your safety. We ask that you not call us killjoys, Scrooge or any four-letter words.
For every snow emergency called, there is a resident who claims it was never issued, and that his vehicle was completely engulfed by an unseen snow bank that he hit in the dark of the early morning appears to be everyone’s fault but his own.
Snowy hillsides whose curves are marked by dangerous conditions beckon to be sledded, skied or tobogganed. No amount of signage stops the adventurous, the folks who ignore the signs.
Municipal risk managers get it … truly we do. Yes, we were kids once although many residents now think we were spawned from the devil himself. We once sought that Radio Flyer for the holidays, fastened our mittens tight, and held on for dear life as we hopped on that sled to feel the exhilaration of the wind and the cold.
Problem is, we’ve grown up. We now get those pesky accident reports that claim our snow-covered hillsides are dangerous and cause calamity and injury.
Gone is the innocence of every risk manager’s youth.
I’m sometimes asked if I know the terrain of a hillside marked for “No Sledding.” Really? There are many dangerous hillsides marked with a “No Sledding” moniker. Do residents really expect us to map out the topography, the tree stumps, the divots, the gulleys and know exactly where they might get hurt?
How often have adults, or parents or guardians ignored the signage and said just this once … in the beauty of the snowfall … let’s take that chance?
Don’t. We know of the dangers and fear for your safety. We ask that you not call us killjoys, Scrooge or any four-letter words.
Think of the potential injuries — concussions, broken limbs and a potential loss of life — the next time you say to yourself … just this once, nothing will happen. I used to do this all the time when I was a kid.
Should you take the risk and fail, call 911, but don’t call me the next morning and tell me I should have known there was a tree stump that appeared out of nowhere and hit you in the teeth.
The patience of weather-weary risk managers is slowly waning amidst the claims of those who should have know better, but consciously decided to take a risk. Like Punxsutawney Phil, we wish we could nip back too.
Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.
What Is Insurance Innovation?
Truly innovative insurance solutions are delivered in real time, as the needs of businesses change and the nature of risk evolves.
Lexington Insurance exemplifies this approach to innovation. Creative products driven by speed to market are at the core of the insurer’s culture, reputation and strategic direction, according to Matthew Power, executive vice president and head of strategic development at Lexington, an AIG Company and the leading U.S.-based surplus lines insurer.
“The excess and surplus lines sector is in a growth mode due, in no small part, to the speed at which our insureds’ underlying business models are changing,” Power said. “Tomorrow’s winning companies are those being built upon true breakthrough innovation, with a strong focus on agility and speed to market.”
To boost its innovation potential, for example, Lexington has launched a new crowdsourcing strategy. The company’s “Innovation Boot Camps” bring people together from the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and London in a series of engagements focused on identifying potential waves of change and market needs on the coverage horizon.
“Employees work in teams to determine how insurance can play a vital role in increasing the success odds of new markets and customers,” Power said. “That means anticipating needs and quickly delivering programs to meet them.”
An example: Working in tandem with the AIG Science team – another collaboration focused on innovation – Lexington is looking to offer an advanced high-tech seating system in the truck cabs of some of its long-haul trucking customers. The goal is to reduce driver injury and fatigue-based accidents.
“Our professionals serving the healthcare market average more than twenty years of industry experience. That includes attorneys and clinicians combining in a defense-oriented claims approach and collaborating with insureds in this fast-moving market segment. At Lexington, our relentless focus on innovation enables us to take on the risk so our clients can take on the opportunities.”
— Matthew Power, Executive Vice President and Head of Regional Development, Lexington Insurance Company
Power explained that exciting growth areas such as robotics, nanotechnology and driverless cars, among others, require highly customized commercial insurance solutions that often can be delivered only by excess and surplus lines underwriters.
“Being non-admitted, our freedom of rate and form allows us to be nimble, and that’s very important to our clients,” he said. “We have an established track record of reacting quickly to trends and market needs.”
Lexington is a leading provider of personal lines coverage for the excess and surplus lines industry and, as Power explains, the company’s suite of product offerings has continued to evolve in the wake of changing customer needs. “Our personal lines team has developed a robust product offering that considers issues like sustainable building, energy efficiency, and cyber liability.”
Most recently the company launched Evacuation Response, a specialty coverage designed to reimburse Lexington personal lines customers for costs associated with government mandated evacuations. “These evacuation scenarios have becoming increasingly commonplace in the wake of recent extreme weather events, and this coverage protects insured families against the associated costs of transportation and temporary housing.
The company also has followed the emerging cap and trade legislation in California, which has created an active carbon trading market throughout the state. “Our new Carbon ODS product provides real property protection for sequestered ozone depleting substances, while our CarbonCover Design Confirm product insures those engineering firms actively verifying and valuing active trades.” Lexington has also begun to insure new Carbon Registries as they are established in markets across the country.
Lexington has also developed a number of new product offerings within the Healthcare space. The Affordable Care Act has brought an increased focus on the continuum of care and clinical patient safety. In response, Lexington has created special programs for a wide range of entities, as the fast-changing healthcare industry includes a range of specialized services, including home healthcare, imaging centers (X-ray, MRI, PET–CT scans), EMT/ambulances, medical laboratories, outpatient primary care/urgent care centers, ambulatory surgery centers and Medical rehabilitation facilities.
“The excess and surplus lines sector is in growth mode due, in no small part, to the speed at which our insureds’ underlying business models are changing,” Power said.
Apart from its coverage flexibility, Lexington offers this segment monthly webcasts, bi-monthly conference calls and newsletters on key risk issues and educational topics. It also provides on-site risk consultation (for qualifying accounts), access to RiskTool, Lexington’s web-based healthcare risk management and patient safety resource, and a technical staff consisting of more than 60 members dedicated solely to healthcare-related claims.
“Our professionals serving the healthcare market average more than twenty years of industry experience,” Power said. “That includes attorneys and clinicians combining in a defense-oriented claims approach and collaborating with insureds in this fast-moving market segment.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Lexington Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.