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Workplace risks higher for hospital employees

A recent Pennsylvania incident has drawn attention to the vulnerability of hospital workers. A patient carrying a gun shot two individuals who had been involved in his treatment. The man's caseworker died from the injuries suffered during the shooting. His psychiatrist carried a firearm of his own and was able to shoot the man in spite of suffering injuries.

Experts indicate that one of the reasons for the potential for such workplace injury situations is that hospitals endeavor to maintain a quiet atmosphere. However, the potential for violence, particularly against mental health workers in such environments, makes it important to consider the need for improved worker safety. Physicians and support workers on the cases of those suffering mental health issues are particularly susceptible to workplace incidents jeopardizing their safety. Statistics indicate that more than 50,000 violent crimes were committed against mental health workers between 2005 and 2009. It is estimated that these issues are often not reported, meaning that the actual incidences may have been much greater.

The lack of reporting in violent cases may be attributed to several factors. In some cases, administrators may discourage reports. In other cases, mental health workers may view such incidents as a typical part of the job. Others express concern that they may be blamed for provocation leading to an incident. Although bad publicity may be a serious concern of a hospital, a worker who has been injured in a violent action at the workplace may need to file for benefits to cover medical costs.

If an employee is facing pressure to avoid filing for workers' compensation due to publicity concerns, it may be helpful to discuss the issues with an attorney. This may ensure that an employee understands filing requirements and rights related to possible benefits.

Source: The Indiana Gazette, "Hospital workers at greater risk", Michael Rubinkam, August 04, 2014

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