The personal safety and security of hospital security professionals - and the welfare of the people within a hospital is being assessed with greater concern and in more detail than ever before.
Violence has become more and more common in healthcare facilities, particularly physical assaults on staff members are caused by patients, although many acts of violence are also committed by visitors, employees, and trespassers (e.g. stalking of a patient or employee, domestic violence or robbery).
What Can be Done to Combat Violence in Hospitals?
In order to combat violence in hospitals, employees are being trained in conflict management and conflict resolution, 'zero violence policies' are being implemented, and electronic access control, digital video surveillance and body worn video solutions are being installed or issued.
All of the above are indeed valuable measures to mitigate the identified risk, however the matter of fact is that all of the above can also fail. It is also a fact that little will stop a potential intoxicated or mentally ill person from overreacting and expressing his anger, frustration or aggression with an act of violence.
One of the most comprehensive articles ever written on ‘violence in hospitals’ was published on 24 May 2017 by the American ECRI Institute, titled “Violence in Healthcare Facilities”. It really is worth reading.
Of course, it is a legal obligation, beholden to the employer, to keep their workforce safe. Yet comments like “we don’t have a risk assessment for this role or for this type of PPE” is something I am told frequently when discussing their team’s exposure to the risk of being assaulted by a patient or indeed visitor. But we all will understand that if the risk of being assaulted by another individual has been identified and is deemed 'realistic' or 'reasonable', then body armour are most certainly worth considering and looking into.
Given the potential for violence, hospital security professionals are increasingly preparing for the worst, hence many hospitals have now rightly decided to review their risk assessments and ultimately concluded their security teams must be issued with stab resistant body armour in order to reduce workplace violence related injuries and improve the personal safety of their frontline staff.
Of course, I would be able to literally write thousands of words on the subject of ‘body armour’ but if I had to narrow it all down to two key points then I would stress the following two points:
I am still somewhat astonished to see the amount of body armour manufacturers or ‘sales agents’ making serious and unsustainable claims. It is absolutely paramount for you to ensure that the body armour you are wearing, purchasing or issuing is indeed certified against the most realistic threats your team is facing.
Most Realistic Risks
In a hospital environment there are three key risks, and I strongly suggest you invest in body armour protecting you from all three of these risks:
- Blunt Force Trauma Injuries: The most common type of assaults hospital security professionals are facing is that involving a punch, kick, blow (someone hitting you with a blunt object) or a hard push (often resulting in blunt force trauma injuries following a subsequent fall). CERTIFIED blunt force trauma protection is in my opinion essential within any healthcare settings.
- Knives: We are all too aware that too many individuals are now carrying ‘blades’ and there are many reasons why that is the case. Most body armour are now offering certified stab protection. The risk of you wearing or being offered an uncertified body armour is low. If you want to read more about the reasons for the rise of knife crime… please read my article “The Global Rise of Knife Crime – Why?”
- Spikes/Needles: This is really something of great concern. There is a significant difference between ‘claiming’ spike protection and CERTIFIED spike protection. To stop a spike from penetrating a body armour takes exceptional engineering skills and extreme tough raw materials. Nevertheless, as a hospital security professional you are highly likely to face a very pointed sharp weapon, a shank, spike, sharpened screwdriver, and even if spikes and needles are quite different from each other, wearing a body armour that offers certified spike protection will offer you total peace of mind that it will unquestionably stop every potential needle you will ever face.
In case you have any technical questions, please feel free to contact me or engage with Colin Mackinnon, my firm’s Technical Director. He has indisputably become one of this country’s leading experts on body armour. Following a 26-year career in law enforcement (counter terrorism, covert operations, surveillance, firearms etc.) Colin is now attending all our commercial meetings, advising hospital security teams, government agencies, private security firms and other enforcement agencies on this subject matter. He will be attending the NAHS Conference in Birmingham on 18 November and keen to have a chat with you if you are attending this event as well.
Robert Kaiser, Founder/CEO