Workplace violence has become high-profile, sadly. It is no longer uncommon or even surprising to hear a news report of a shooting inside a hospital or other healthcare facility, and too many healthcare workers have their own personal stories about assaults in facilities or in parking structures or other potentially dangerous areas around facilities.
One important change regarding workplace violence in healthcare facilities is that it has moved out of the shadows into the light. Preventing it has become a much higher priority for professional associations, as well as for regulatory and accrediting organizations. The Joint Commission updated its workplace violence standards in 2022, and in addition to offering facilities best practices and risk assessments, OSHA is in the process of developing regulations specific to healthcare workplace violence.
For front-line maintenance and environmental services workers in healthcare facilities, as well as healthcare staff, the renewed focus is welcome, especially considering that not that long ago, the possibility of workplace violence was often seen as part of the job. Scott Cormier, vice president of emergency management, environment of care and safety with Medxcel, offered an example in a recent conversation.
"I used to work in the emergency department, and obviously we dealt with workplace violence,” Cormier says. “At the time I worked in the emergency department, when you reported workplace violence incidents, you were told that it's just a part of your job. We created this culture that abnormal is the norm, that unsafe is the norm.”
The heightened awareness of healthcare workplace violence and the accompanying preventive measures are long overdue, given that these facilities are dedicated to improving human health and safety. Unsafe healthcare facilities can no longer be the norm.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.