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Health care worker assaulted by member of the public

Date of incident: August 2016
Notice of incident number: 2016108620054
Employer: Public health care services

Incident summary
At a mental health drop-in centre, a worker responded to a knock at the door after work activities had ended for the day. A member of the public was at the door asking if there was any food available. The worker said the drop-in program was closed and that no food was available. The worker attempted to end the conversation, but the person at the door prevented her from closing the door and struck her. A client who was still inside attempted to intervene. The person at the door slammed the door on the client’s hand and kicked at the worker’s dog before the worker was able to close and lock the door.

Investigation conclusions

Cause

  • Lack of risk assessment and site-specific policies and procedures. The worker and a client were allegedly assaulted by a member of the public who came to the door after the mental health drop-in program had finished for the day. The member of the public was not a client of the drop-in program; the site shared space with other programs, such as a community kitchen. It was also a new location for the drop-in program. Key elements of the employer’s violence prevention program were not implemented at the new location, such as conducting a violence risk assessment and developing site-specific policies and procedures. If such a risk assessment had been conducted, the employer would not have used the location for the mental health drop-in program, or would at least have developed site-specific procedures and work arrangements to address the risk of violence.

Contributing factor

  • Inadequate supervisory training. The employer failed to ensure that supervisory personnel received occupational health and safety instruction and training related to their roles and responsibilities.

Other safety issue

  • Lack of detail in Code White protocol. Workers at the drop-in centre had access to an undated Code White protocol intended to provide instructions on how to deal with violent or potentially violent members of the public. However, the instructions specified on the protocol were not suitable for the location, and the protocol did not provide detailed information regarding steps a worker should take in the event that an incident related to violence occurs.

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Publication Date: Mar 2019 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2016108620054