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Employees need to be protected in the workplace

Working in a psychiatric institution can be a dangerous job especially after last year's shooting at a Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Experts on workplace violence suggest that this hospital was not putting enough focus on protecting its employees from attacks by patients, thus causing workplace injuries.

A report conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration did find that the hospital focused exclusively on the safety of its patients. This is great for patients, but it does not protect employees. If there is ever a patient safety issue, protocols change immediately, but if an employee is injured, things are slower to change if at all.

After the workplace shooting last year, the hospital hired a consultant to evaluate workplace violence as an add-on to the OSHA investigation. OSHA did not issue any citations after the incident, but did suggest a program to help avoid workplace violence.

All of this is coming to light from the shooting incident last year. A mentally ill man killed a therapist and wounded five other people before police shot and killed the man. He was a schizophrenic and was involved in the hospital's mental health system, but was not a patient of the facility. Investigators are not sure why the man had targeted the hospital.

When OSHA came in and evaluated the situation, it brought up documentation that reported work-related injuries and illnesses - there were 75 incidents of patient-related staff injuries in 2011, an increase from 48 in 2010. For the first four months of 2012, there were 39 incidents, which included the shootings.

These findings bring to light the need to protect these workers while on the job. This particular institution is probably doing alright in protecting its employees than other institutions, but there is room for improvement. The hospital feels that it is protecting the rights and safety of its patients and staff and will continue to make efforts to improve this.

Source: Post-gazette.com, "Report: Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic employees still not protected," Jonathan D. Silver, Jan. 2, 2013

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