The direct cost from settlements and insurance to a healthcare organization when responding to the injury or death of an employee from violence is substantial. Above and beyond payment of workers’ compensation claims, liability claims for failure to provide a safe workplace are also expensive to litigate, regardless of merit, and may well result in substantial settlements.
Then there are the fines or penalties. Looking at healthcare specifically, for example, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fined facilities in Pennsylvania ($32,000+), Florida ($71,000+), and Massachusetts ($207,000) for making employees and patients vulnerable to injuries from punches, kicks, bites, scratches, hair or extremity pulling, and objects used as weapons by patients.
The Costs of Active Shooter Training Injuries
Many organizations are taking steps to teach caregivers how to protect themselves. Local police are often paid a nominal amount to teach ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) or “Run-Hide-Fight” training. This seems like a positive step, but numerous carriers have reported a surprising number of claims from the trainings themselves.
Participants have sued over psychic or emotional injuries inflicted by well-meaning officers trying to give a sense of what danger really feels like. Reported injuries include hearing loss from blanks shot off at close range, as well as bumps, bruises, sprains, or worse from practicing escape attempts or hands-on take-down techniques. In addition to time lost from work from injuries, many participants say that this type of training leaves them with more worry about potential violence than prior to instruction. Reported settlements of $500,000 exist, and the risk-reward analysis for such potential liability simply does not merit their continuation.
The gold standard, therefore, would be a way to stop attackers from a distance. That way employees wouldn’t have to practice tackling an assailant, because they won’t have to be near one.
Workers’ compensation carriers have begun advocating for “low impact, no scare tactics” training. Liability insurance carriers also express solid support, because potential liability arising from a failure to provide a safe workplace is drastically limited by:
(a) reasonably adequate policies, procedures, training, and equipment
(b) avoiding injuries altogether to anyone involved.
When an employee or security can rapidly and effectively incapacitate and control a potentially violent subject without physical contact and without any effect on bystanders or lasting harm to the subject, virtually all potential catalysts of injury from violence are effectively eliminated.
The Value of Compassionate Control
Those who work in healthcare specifically must consider another unique twist for their workplace, whether it is in a hospital, aged care, or psychiatric facility: compassion.
Everyone in healthcare knows that often the assailant is a patient suffering delusion, fear, drug reactions or omissions, or is similarly overwhelmed by circumstances. Many are simply not in their “right minds.” It’s easy to see how a compassionate nurse might find it difficult to take assertive self-defense measures against a patient in such a situation, only to find herself or himself compromised and in trouble. That’s when injuries happen – to the caregiver and then to the patient once security arrives and enters an ongoing fray. These scenarios are ripe for lawsuits.
Compassionate control would give the caregiver the confidence and comfort level to use that control sooner rather than later in a potentially violent situation. In other words, BEFORE injury occurs. Another way to think about this giving caregivers a way to bridge the response gap: that time between when violence erupts and help arrives in the form of internal security or external police. This response gap may be a few minutes in an urban hospital, but an hour in a rural one.
The bottom line remains for any location, from business to government to institutional sectors: if violence can be deterred or stopped – before an assault becomes a battery – then injuries are prevented and liability is minimized.
Innovation For Hospitals
The epidemic of violence against caregivers demanded a solution. Thankfully, there are many products that were purpose built for the unique issues of the healthcare industry.
A nurse can now spray a potentially dangerous patient from 18 feet away with a stream of safe, non-lethal sprays, which result in immediate, involuntary eye closure, pain, and voluntary submission without the loss of bodily control (which often happens with a Taser). No one else in the room is affected, nor will it get into the HVAC system or spread throughout the unit. Generally, subjects simply take a knee and focus on the alleviation of this uncomfortable new condition.
Once the patient is restrained and the threat of violence has passed, another formula that provides effective and rapid personal relief, can start to reverse the effects of the spray on contact and returns a person to normal in minutes. This allows caregivers to give care. Additionally, the potential damages claims that might arise from a patient subjected to defensive measures by a potentially endangered caregiver (right or wrong) are drastically reduced when there is limited physical touching and rapid reversal of the discomforting tool or agent used in defense. Better still, by a factor of at least 10x to date, caregivers have prevented violence from even taking place simply by brandishing these sprays.
In short, this effective self-defense solution prevents injury, damage, or loss from occurring even when violence threatens.
The pandemic has taught us that preparation is paramount. We all also know that money matters.
The logic of risk managers, liability pool participants, and claims assessors investigating workplace violence is clear. Premiums paid for workers’ comp and liability insurance and/or losses attributed to acts of workplace violence will undoubtedly decrease when violence preparedness training and non-lethal active defense measures are introduced.
This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.