Creating Safer Workplaces For Essential Workers
Enhancing safety measures is crucial in healthcare and education to protect essential workers and address rising safety concerns that contribute to high turnover rates.
- By Brent Cobb
- Nov 16, 2023
When employees are seeking new career opportunities, the obvious considerations for accepting a job are salary, location and title. However, there’s another consideration that is relevant in today’s society: workplace safety. Safety for employees should be an aspect that all employers take extremely seriously across all industries. Education and healthcare specifically are lacking in reassuring employees of their physical safety. A 2022 survey stated that two-thirds of nurses (65 percent) reported they had been verbally or physically assaulted by a patient or a patient’s family member within the last year. Another 2022 survey reported that four in 10 educators feel less safe in their schools now than they did five years ago.
Both industries are experiencing high employee turnover and low employment rates which can be a direct cause of unsafe working environments and the lack of protection from employers.
In order to attract and retain talent, employers in both industries need to prioritize employee safety. Today there are many workplace safety solutions to choose from, but it can take time to know where to start or what options make the most sense for employees. There are various options and levels that employers can choose from. This includes but is not limited to security cameras, blueprint tools, alarm badges and cell phone apps.
Workplace Safety Concerns in Healthcare
In a field where employees’ everyday responsibilities include saving and protecting the lives of patients, healthcare workers should not have to constantly worry about their own safety as well. As frontline workers, healthcare staff are often put into vulnerable situations, and safety precautions must be put in place in case a situation escalates into something violent. Healthcare and social service workers are actually five times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall.
Hospitals have the technology and sources for patient emergencies, but why not for staff safety emergencies? In a setting where individuals share a common objective of addressing health issues—including illnesses, health challenges and physical injuries—it is crucial to incorporate workplace safety solutions into the discussion. Imagine being a nurse trying to save someone’s life, while also trying to save one’s own.
Healthcare workers need to have a safety solution in place that allows them to complete a typical workday without additional stress and anxiety. When employees are struggling with mental health, such as worrying about their personal safety, their ability to focus clearly and complete their assignments can be debilitating. Having a safety solution would allow healthcare workers to have peace of mind knowing that they can easily get help if a safety risk were to occur.
An implemented safety plan in a hospital can not only save lives and protect the mental health of employees but it can also increase recruitment statistics. Oftentimes, hospitals with more returning employees compared to others are safer than hospitals that have higher turnover rates. Experienced employees are needed in all industries, but they are especially crucial in industries like healthcare, where many lives are at risk on a daily basis.
Workplace Safety Concerns in School Systems
Similarly, like in the healthcare industry, school teachers also need to complete a regular school day without the extra “what-ifs” in case of an escalated student situation or campus-wide school safety emergency. According to an education survey, 94 percent of educators want more student health and behavioral support.
As of June 2023, there had been 389 school shootings in the United States since Columbine in 1999. Taking that into account, schools need to be prepared at all times for worst-case scenarios. Not only should a school safety plan be prepared for extreme security situations, but it should also cover everyday emergencies such as student health-related emergencies. For example, if a student is having a severe allergic reaction, the closest staff member should be able to stay with the student while still getting help in the most efficient way possible.
Staff retention is another key component schools that are hesitant to implement safety solutions should consider. Currently, in a national teacher shortage, 65 percent of parents express apprehension about their school's ability to supply qualified educators. Some teachers are even considering a career change because of this concern. When asked about school safety, many teachers have expressed a desire or plan to quit or transfer to another school.
Teachers and school staff are not the only ones who deserve peace of mind about safety in schools but so do the parents of students. A school is supposed to be a safe place where students learn and grow as individuals without any hesitation from parents, but unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Within the past few years, parents have been showing a rise in concern for sending their children to school, due to fear for their children’s physical safety at school. This parental concern has led many parents to homeschool their children.
Both of these industries have a critical need for implementing safety solutions in the workplace for many similar reasons. In these professions that require a daily focus on the well-being of others, whether that be students or patients, a safety solution can make a workday more efficient leading to overall improved industry success. If these industries do not start enhancing their safety precautions, the industries will begin to suffer as employees will begin to quit. Or their daily efforts on the job will be debilitated by worries about their physical safety. After taking this all into consideration and beginning the process of implementing a workplace safety solution, decision-makers need to understand that the solution of their choice needs to be prepared for all types of security-risk situations, violent or not. A security solution plan needs to be in place for all emergency matters so that employers are prepared to protect workers’ safety.