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Potential assaults make health care workers vulnerable

Safety authorities say mental health facilities, emergency departments, long-term care facilities and some other medical areas are high-risk settings for workplace violence in California. Along with health care workers' risk exposure to radiation, toxic substances, infectious diseases and back injuries, the threats of assault and battery are ever-present. It is not uncommon for weapons to be found in psychiatric wards and emergency rooms.

Violence toward nurses in facilities for mental health patients could originate from patients and visitors. Authorities say factors that determine vulnerability include the lack of adequate safety training, containment practices, time of day and staffing patterns. Nursing students and inexperienced health care workers are said to be at higher risks of assault, which mostly occur during the containment of patient violence. Other injuries result from battery.

Prescribed measures to prevent such incidents include establishing adequate security measures in known high-risk areas. Training is crucial for all newly hired health care workers along with frequent refresher training for experienced workers. Written instructions for methods to control violent patients is essential, and it could be beneficial to allow workers to participate in safety meetings along with hospital management.

Health care workers in California might find comfort in the knowledge that the workers' compensation insurance system will cover their medical expenses and lost wages if they should suffer work-related injuries. However, if a patient causes the injuries, the injured worker might also have grounds to pursue additional damage recovery through the civil justice system of the state. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can determine the viability of a third party claim and assist in the navigation of both the claims.

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