This story originally ran on HCPro's OSHA Healthcare Advisor.
The Joint Commission is the latest healthcare heavy-hitter to call for better protection of healthcare workers, announcing on Tuesday the creation of Sentinel Event Alert 59, which addresses violence—physical and verbal—against healthcare workers.
About 75% of workplace assaults occur in healthcare and social service sector each year, and violence-related injuries are four times more likely to cause healthcare workers to take time off from work than other kinds of injuries.
The purpose of the new alert is to help hospitals and other healthcare organizations better recognize workplace violence directed by patients and visitors toward healthcare workers and better prepare healthcare staff to address workplace violence, both in real time and afterward, The Joint Commission wrote in this latest Sentinel Event Alert publication.
Sentinel Event Alert 59 has some overlap with Alerts 40 and 57—which were released in 2008 and 2017, respectively, and focused on the development and maintenance of safety culture—and therefore were not addressed in this alert.
Per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about 75% of workplace assaults annually occurred in the healthcare and social service sector. Violence-related injuries are four times more likely to cause healthcare workers to take time off from work than other kinds of injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The Joint Commission cites both of those facts in this Sentinel Event Alert publication and adds that Joint Commission data show 68 incidents of homicide, rape, or assault of hospital staff members over the past eight years—and that’s mostly only what hospitals voluntarily reported.
The Joint Commission is calling for each incident of violence or credible threat of violence to be reported to leadership, internal security, and—if necessary—law enforcement, and it also wants an incident report to be created. Under its Sentinel Event policy, The Joint Commission says that any rape, any assault that leads to death or harm, or any homicide of a patient, visitor, employee, licensed independent practitioner, or vendor on hospital property should be considered a sentinel event and requires a comprehensive systematic analysis.
Additionally, The accreditor says it’s up to the healthcare organization to specifically define unacceptable behavior and determine what is severe enough to warrant an investigation.
This Sentinel Event Alert, which you can download here along with other resources, comes on the heels of an emergency preparedness rule from CMS that recently went into effect and efforts from the National Fire Protection Association to fast-track its new standard for active shooter events and other violent incidents. OSHA is also considering a standard to help protect healthcare and social workers from violence.