On 6 May 2015, the Victorian Auditor General's Report on Occupational Violence Against Healthcare Workers (Report) was tabled in Parliament.

The audit assessed whether the Department of Health & Human Services, WorkSafe, Ambulance Victoria and health services adequately protect and support healthcare workers from occupational violence. It examined the effectiveness of systems at protecting healthcare workers given the high levels of occupational violence which have serious consequences.

Key checks and measures for health care service providers

Health care service providers should undertake the following checks and measures given the findings and recommendations in the Report:

Initiatives to prevent or reduce the likelihood of occupational violence

  • Conduct regular reviews of controls to prevent and reduce occupational violence and evaluate the effectiveness of these controls through audits, surveys, briefings etc.
  • Ensure controls are communicated in an easy to understand manner and consistently applied.
  • Develop training programs that are tailored to preventing or reducing occupational violence and available to all health care workers that may be exposed to this hazard.
  • Regularly review tailored training programs for effectiveness and ensure they are updated.
  • Develop robust investigation procedures and monitor compliance with these procedures.

Data Collection and Analysis

  • Investigate and address barriers to under-reporting and provide greater guidance, oversight and accountability to address under-reporting, build high quality and comparable data and ensure compliance with reporting requirements.
  • Ensure data collection occurs across all health worker incidents, not just nurses.

Health Sector Leadership

Keep a watch for:

  • New guidance material and occupational violence training tools that may be released by the Department.
  • Incident and investigation guidance for clinical incidents from the Department and WorkSafe.
  • Increased community awareness projects on occupational violence against healthcare workers.
  • Proactive use of WorkSafe's range of tools to assess risk and effectiveness of controls in health services.

The Victorian Government announced a $20 million Health Sector Violence Prevention Fund in the recent Victorian Budget which it says will help address concerns in the Report.

WorkSafe is likely to respond to the recommendations in the Report with a more focused and directed approach to investigating and addressing occupational violence in health care including its enforcement mechanisms.

Gadens has the expertise to advise health care providers on proactive measures to reduce and manage the incidence of occupational violence and minimise potential legal exposure arising out of occupational violence incidents. 

Note: An audit examining Bullying in the Health Sector is scheduled for late 2015.