Workplace Violence as a Major Health Risk in Healthcare Work

A new study published online in the Occupational and Environmental Health found that healthcare workers who are exposed to physical violence at work experience significantly more often low back pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms.
Many studies have shown a high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers, and also the rates of disability pensions due to these disorders are among e.g., nursing aides above the average. Commonly reported exposures in healthcare work are lifting and high work speed. Healthcare workers also often experience physical violence in their work and it is known to cause various health problems, including anxiety, depressiveness, fatigue and headache. Its effects on musculoskeletal symptoms have however rarely been investigated. (WCxKit) 
According to a new study among 920 clinical nursing home workers in the U.S., almost one-half of the workers had been physically assaulted at work at least once during the preceding 3 months by a resident or resident's visitor. The risk of musculoskeletal symptoms increased with the number of assaults.
Those assaulted 3 times or more during the preceding 3 months had more than 1.5 times higher risk of low back pain and more than 2 times higher risk of upper extremity pain compared to those who had not experienced violence at work. Moreover, the risk of multi site pain (pain at several body areas concurrently) remained 3-fold after other work-related and individual factors were controlled for.
"Such a strong association cannot only be explained by physical injuries. Workplace violence is a considerable stress factor which can induce, reinforce and prolong pain symptoms. Only recurring fear or threat of violent assaults is enough to produce pain like symptoms", says Dr.Helena Miranda from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health who participated in the American study. (WCxKit)
The study also showed that good safety climate reduced the consequences of violence. In those workplaces, where management considers workplace health and safety to be important and where staffing is adequate, the association between workplace violence and pain was weaker or was no longer observed. Hence, good safety management buffers the effects of physical assaults.
Miranda says that workplace violence in health care has increased globally, also in Finland. This has induced a public discussion about an 'epidemic' of violence against healthcare workers. "Management needs to take workplace violence seriously and act early and effectively. It is worrying that some nursing staff members do not report workplace assaults officially since they think "it is just a part of their job". Being assaulted at work should not be a part of anyone's job. The detrimental effects of workplace violence of the physical and mental health are so noticeable."

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.
ontact: or 860-553-6604.

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact: or 860-553-6604.
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