Public Sectors Workers Being Assaulted
It is an outrage that public sector workers continue to be assaulted while carrying out their duties, and urgent action is needed to prevent and deter these attacks, British public sector workers’ union UNISON recently noted.
Following a parliamentary debate on attacks against NHS workers recently, the UK’s largest union called for the government to take urgent action to recognize the human cost of verbal and physical assaults on public sector workers.[WCx]
Government Cutting Spending, Union Opposes
The 2010/11 NHS Staff Survey revealed that 7% of NHS staff were victims of assault during that year, but the union fears that under-reporting is hiding the true extent of the problem. Yet, despite this, the government is reportedly continuing with a cuts agenda that will threaten initiatives to prevent these attacks and the ability of the police to find and prosecute the perpetrators.
Staff Nurse Assaulted and Suffered Needlestick Injury
According to UNISON, a staff nurse from Scunthorpe reported an assault – including a horrific needlestick injury – at the hands of a patient in January 2012:
“A patient had attacked a nurse earlier in the day, after which no one felt able to approach him. When, with colleagues, I went to clean the patient up, I was subjected to a violent attack that left me on sick leave for three months. I have had intensive physiotherapy and still regularly attend physio sessions.
“I suffered a needlestick injury while trying to sedate the patient and will be tested for blood-borne viruses in the next few weeks. During the time I was off work and, for some time since, I have been in constant pain, I had limited use of my right arm and restricted movement of my neck. I could not hold a pen to write or brush my teeth.
“Everyday tasks took hours and I became depressed and withdrawn. Even now I am unable to perform all my duties as a nurse. Yet, mine was not a serious injury. I have made a considerable improvement but will always have some level of pain and restriction of movement.”
Unison Union Lobbying Against Cuts
Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary remarked, “It is right that the police have special protection under the law from assaults, but all public sector workers should be protected from attacks in the line of duty.
“Cuts to public services mean that it is hard working public services that often bear the brunt of frustration and anger from the public. Assaults of any kind – whether verbal or physical – are unacceptable, and it is important that prosecution rates, and resulting sentences, reinforce that message.
“Public sector cuts are hindering efforts by employers and the authorities to prevent these attacks happening in the first place. Health & safety is not just red tape, it saves lives, but how can the Health & Safety Executive protect workers when their budgets are being cut by more than a third?”
Prentis added, “The parliamentary debate shows that this sort of violence is on the radar, but more needs to be done urgently. UNISON demands that the government cracks down on this sort of crime and provides our public servants with the protection they deserve.” [WCx]
UNISON is Britain and Europe’s biggest public sector union with more than 1.3 million members.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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