Approximately 11,370 healthcare and social assistance workers were the victims of workplace violence assaults in 2010 – a 13-percent increase over such assaults in 2009, and many more incidents likely go unreported, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the past year, 89 percent of hospitals had at least one event of workplace violence, with an average of 123 events per hospital. This led researchers to ask: what are healthcare security departments doing to mitigate the risks of violence?

Of the 299 respondents in a Duke University Medical Center and International Healthcare Security and Safety Foundation (IHSSF) study, 99 percent of hospitals were employing at least one of the following workplace violence mitigation components:  employee involvement, management commitment, incident reporting and record keeping, training of security staff, hazard prevention and control, and worksite analysis. Fifty-five percent of hospitals employed all six.

However, the training component raised another question: How many healthcare facilities are also offering similar workplace violence prevention or security training to non-security employees? Ninety-eight percent of hospitals train security staff on workplace violence policies, but in terms of non-security staff, 64 percent of direct patient care staff, 28 percent of housekeeping, 27 percent of food service workers and just four percent of facilities workers are required to complete workplace violence training. Fourteen percent of all hospitals surveyed require all staff to be trained in workplace violence prevention.

Participants in the survey highlighted the need for continued efforts to enhance training availability, content and reach. A lack of education and training was a commonly mentioned source of difficulty between security and non-security personnel.

Perpetrators of hospital violence were most commonly patients (75 percent), but also visitors (nine percent) and outside individuals (six percent). While threats and verbal assaults are most common at 41 percent, 29 percent of incidents included a physical assault. The most commonly injured parties are security personnel (57 percent) and other hospital workers (38 percent). Security personnel in hospitals have a limited range of weaponry to defend themselves and their stakeholder, the report notes. Most are issued handcuffs, followed by batons, OC products, hand guns, TASERS and K9 units. Documented training in weapons use was required in approximately 90 percent of hospitals for nearly all types of weapons. A striking finding from the research showed a 41-percent-lower risk of physical assault among hospitals with security personnel armed with TASERS compared to those without.