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March 2, 2015

Hospital Violence Reduction – Legislative Landscape

There is a trend in many countries to bring into play specific legislation which seeks to protect public services workers from crimes of violence and aggression committed against them.   Often this legislation places higher sentencing tariffs for crimes of assault against emergency services workers.

While undoubtedly a control measure which primarily seeks to deter acts of violence against staff, this kind of legislative strategy also gives staff some comfort and confidence that, at a high level, their safety and security is valued.

Furthermore, as in the following example, it is not unusual that health and safety-oriented legislation would specifically outline the systematic ways in which an organisation should be controlling violence risk to its employees:

In 1995, the state of California introduced the Hospital Safety and Security Act (AB 508) to decrease the amount of violence being committed against hospital employees. 

The Act requires all acute care hospitals in California to conduct a security and safety assessment and to use the findings to develop a security plan with specific performance measures to protect personnel, patients, and visitors from aggressive or violent behavior. 

The plan includes specific security components such as:

●  Environmental controls to include physical layout and design, use of alarms and other physical security safeguards 

●  Staff-to-patient ratios 

●  Availability of security personnel who are trained in the identification and management of aggression and violence 

●  Specific violence prevention and response policies to include aggression and violent behavior management training 

●  Individual or committee responsibility for development of the security plan 

●  Reporting requirements

Hospitals in California are expected to track violent incidents that occur at the facility and analyze for trends as part of an annual quality-improvement process. 

In 2002, the University of Iowa’s Injury Prevention and Research Center studied the hospital employee assault rates and violent events before and after the enactment of the AB508 and found the policy to be an effective method to increase the safety of healthcare workers. 

It is in fact highly likely that there already exists OSH Occupational Safety and Health, or HSE Health Safety and Environment (HSE) legislation in any given country or state which can be used to protect the staff and the workplace of a Hospital from forseeable risks of workplace violence and aggression.


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Gerard O’Dea is a conflict management, personal safety and physical interventions training consultant.  He is the training director for Dynamis, a specialist provider of personal safety and violence management programmes and the European Adviser for ‘Verbal Defense and Influence’, a global programme which addresses the spectrum of human conflict.  www.dynamis.training

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Gerard O'Dea

Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

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