Social workers unsafe on the job
Another social worker was killed on the job this week. 67-year-old Boni Frederick was found beaten and stabbed to death after paying a house visit to a troubled family. Earlier this year Sally Blackwell a social worker from Texas was found dead in the field.
Jordan Barab writes:
Threats and violence against social service workers is nothing new, but it rarely rises into the headlines until someone gets killed. A recent study conducted by the National Association of Social Workers found that 55 percent of 5,000 licensed social workers surveyed said they faced safety issues on the job. Sixty-eight percent of them said their employers had not adequately addressed their concerns. A survey in 2002 of 800 workers found 19 percent had been victims of violence and 63 percent had been threatened.
As Jordan explains, these workers are not without legal protection, if only OSHA were willing to enforce its own guidelines on workplace violence:
In 1997, federal OSHA issued Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care Social Service Workers to assist health care and social service workers to prevent workplace violence. The guideliens established workplace violence as a legitimate hazard that employers had a responsibility to prevent, and provided specific examples of how to prevent such assaults -- like not working alone, better communication, background checks, etc -- but OSHA refuses to enforce its own recommendations.
These social service workers are the victims of cost-cutting measures that overload them with work and fail to support them. Increasingly, social workers are traveling alone to visits where they normally would have gone in pairs for safety, or even been escorted by law enforcement. Mental health workers are working behind non-reinforced doors because there's no money to shore them up.
The workers who do some of society's most difficult and necessary work are not being protected on the job. We tend to think about occupational safety in terms of male-dominated occupations like construction or mining. As the deaths of social workers illustrate, female-dominated occupations like social work and nursing can be equally hazardous. It's important to keep in mind that you don't have to work with heavy machinery in order to be at risk on the job.