Curbing violence against health workers

HID Global

By Clete Bordeaux*
Tuesday, 16 January, 2024

Curbing violence against health workers

There has been a disturbing surge in violence against healthcare workers and professionals in social assistance roles in recent years. Reports indicate that individuals in these sectors in Australia are up to 2.5 times more likely to experience workplace injuries compared to workers in other fields, with healthcare workers ranking as the highest risk profession for violence-related injury.

This unsettling trend not only poses immediate risks to the physical and psychological wellbeing of these workers but also has far-reaching consequences for organisations, including increased absenteeism and work incapacity claims, and additional expenditures aimed at enhancing safety measures. The gravity of the situation is further underscored by the fact that a substantial percentage of assaults on healthcare professionals go unreported, as revealed by a World Health Organization survey which found that only 30% of such incidents are officially documented.

Need for a multifaceted approach

Addressing this escalating crisis requires a multifaceted approach, with a focus on implementing stringent measures to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and those in social assistance roles. In Australia, occupational health and safety regulations provide voluntary guidelines that empower organisations to create a workplace free from recognised serious hazards.

Advocates are urging employers, particularly in healthcare facilities, to proactively develop violence prevention programs as a crucial step towards safeguarding their employees. The Australian College of Nursing, for example, requested that 24/7 security guards be mandated across all facilities in Australia. Below are some recommendations for violence prevention.

The role of access control

One pivotal aspect of violence prevention is controlling access to healthcare facilities. Implementing sign-in procedures and issuing visitor passes can help in monitoring and regulating entry. By keeping track of individuals entering the premises, hospitals can identify potential threats early on and take necessary precautions. This not only provides a sense of security to the staff but also acts as a deterrent to those with malicious intentions.

Setting clear visitor hours and outlining specific procedures for being inside the hospital premises can contribute significantly to reducing the risk of violence. By enforcing these guidelines, healthcare facilities can minimise the chances of unauthorised individuals wandering around, thereby mitigating potential threats. Educating visitors about the importance of adhering to these rules enhances overall awareness and promotes a safer environment for both patients and staff.

A proactive approach involves identifying patients with a history of violence or gang activity and maintaining a ‘restricted visitors’ list. This list should be accessible to security personnel, nurses and sign-in clerks to ensure that everyone involved in the safety of the facility is informed. By having this information readily available, health workers can be better prepared to handle potentially volatile situations and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others.

This can be further enhanced by advanced technologies such as biometric scanning and facial recognition, which can detect specific individuals once enrolled on a blacklist even if they happen to have changed features such as growing a beard or wearing a hat and sunglasses.

Technology solutions

In the quest for safer healthcare environments, modern technology plays a crucial role. The implementation of a robust visitor management suite can revolutionise security measures in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. These suites offer a range of accommodations, innovations and automation designed to elevate operational excellence and enhance safety protocols. Some key features of these solutions include:

Visitor management suites provide precise control over access to different areas within a health facility. By assigning specific access levels to individuals based on their roles and permissions, the risk of unauthorised entry to a specific area is significantly reduced.

In an era where minimising physical contact is crucial, contactless check-in and check-out processes are paramount. These features not only streamline the visitor registration process but also contribute to infection control efforts by reducing points of contact.

Centralised access

Centralised access control allows for a unified approach to security management. This ensures that security measures are consistent across the entire facility, leaving no room for vulnerabilities in different areas. More and more these days, this can include mobile devices for access control, which lends more convenience and efficiency to a facility’s employees.

Perhaps one of the most powerful features is the integration of watchlists. By incorporating databases of individuals with a history of violence or criminal activity, healthcare facilities can proactively identify potential threats and take pre-emptive actions to safeguard their staff and patients. Again, taking measures to counter this by integrating systems such as CCTV cameras and two-way audio with access control measures via a visitor management suite can make a big difference.

Comprehensive reporting tools provide valuable insights into visitor patterns and potential security risks. By analysing this data, healthcare organisations can continually refine and improve their violence prevention strategies.

Providing employees with duress alarms in the form of easily wearable and accessible duress buttons can further enhance employee safety, and again these can be integrated with a central security and access control solution. Employees can press their alert button anywhere in the healthcare facility and security or administration officers can instantly know their whereabouts and respond to the fact they are in apparent danger.

Collective action

The surge in violence against health workers is a pressing issue that demands urgent attention. Organisations, especially those in the healthcare sector, must adopt proactive measures to create a safe working environment for their staff. By implementing recommendations such as sign-in procedures and restricted visitor lists, and leveraging modern visitor management suites, healthcare facilities can significantly enhance their security measures. The collective effort to address this crisis requires a commitment from all stakeholders, including policymakers, employers and technology providers, to ensure the wellbeing of those dedicated to preserving public health.

*Clete Bordeaux, Healthcare Business Development Director, IAM Solutions, HID

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