Member story: Violence in the workplace

Thursday 18 Mar 2021

Our members who work as hospital Security Officers are the front-line responders in Emergency Departments when there is violence. Members are increasingly risking their health and livelihoods as they protect the people around them.

Recently, a Security Officer at a major Perth hospital was severely injured at work due to a drug-affected patient attacking him while off-duty.

The patient was brought in during the night and was given the proper treatment for substance abuse but was threatening to staff, so our member was assigned to watch him. After he finished his shift, a code black was called, and the patient escaped his room.

It took five Security Officers to apprehend him as he posed a risk to staff and members of the public after trying to assault a nurse in the waiting room.

The patient struggled to escape the arm-lock by wrapping his legs around our member's ankle, subsequently dragging him down and snapping his foot. In a matter of minutes, he found himself a patient in emergency with a severely broken ankle.

Our member needed to wait five days for the swelling to go down before being booked into surgery, where he required rods put into his ankle to stabilise the injury. After this surgery, doctors determined he also needed a shoulder reconstruction due to the attack.

While waiting to be booked in to get the shoulder reconstruction, he contracted a staph infection through his ankle injury's sutures. He needed to wait for the infection to clear before having more surgery.

Our member is now facing at least six months of recovery time before being fully healed. However, this was not an isolated incident.

"You get injuries like that all the time. Like a broken nose, damaged knees, shoulders, broken jaws. It's an everyday occurrence." Our member said.

He believes there need to be more Security Officers with clearly defined powers and authority, plus more training for other health service staff to better deal with aggressive situations.

"The police pass the duty of care onto the hospital staff, and the last duty of care is on the Security Officers. If the patient is violent and if we hurt them in any way that is not considered reasonable, then we are liable and charged".

We know there is no easy solution to addressing the societal issues that contribute to violence and aggression. However, the State Government and Health authorities must focus immediate efforts on de-escalating and better managing the violence and aggression within our hospitals.

More trained and professional Security Officers are needed to protect staff and patients, and they, in turn, need to be better protected with clear rights and authority.

We also need much more to support and treat patients with mental health and drug and alcohol dependencies in the community to stop our Emergency Departments from being the gateway for people accessing help.

If we don't achieve this, more members will be seriously injured at work.


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