COVID-19 Drives Surge in Workplace Violence

Joint Commission revised its workplace violence standards effective Jan. 1, 2022.

By Dan Hounsell
March 18, 2022

The work conditions in the nation’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities become more challenging by the day, it seems. The overriding safety issue in many facilities remains the COVID-19 pandemic, which is winding down for many facilities but remains a problem. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an enforcement memorandum for a short-term increase in highly focused inspections directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients. 

But the pandemic is hardly the only safety issue workers in these facilities face. Workplace violence had been steadily worsening over the last decade, and the ongoing flow of patients entering hospitals with cases of COVID-19 also are leading to greater instances of healthcare workplace violence. Consider the conditions in Texas, where hospital workers and health care officials say incidents of violence against staff have been rising in number and intensity this summer as tensions boil during the delta-fueled fourth surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. In another instance, an OSHA inspection prompted by employee complaints recently determined that Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx lacked adequate safeguards for employees in the pediatric emergency department of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore. 

The situation prompted The Joint Commission to revise its workplace violence standards that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. The biggest revision of its standards includes a new meaning of workplace violence as an act or threat occurring at the workplace that can include any of the following: verbal, nonverbal, written, or physical aggression; threatening, intimidating, harassing, or humiliating words or actions; bullying; sabotage; sexual harassment; and physical assaults. 

To address the ongoing and growing threat of workplace violence in healthcare facilities, The Joint Commission offers an array of resources designed to help managers prevent, detect and respond to incidents of workplace violence. The page provides links to materials developed by The Joint Commission, as well as government resources and those from professional associations, such as the American Nurses Association and the American Hospital Association. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facilities market. He has more than 25 years of experience covering engineering, maintenance, and grounds management issues in institutional and commercial facilities. 

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Topic Area: Infection Control , Safety

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