September 05, 2007 | | Comments 0
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Looking at security’s rules of engagement

There’s been a fair amount of media coverage relative to workplace violence in general and healthcare in particular. As safety professionals, we clearly have an obligation to enact whatever prudent measures are necessary to appropriately manage the risks associated with potential for violence in our workplaces.

Since we’ve already talked a bit about risk assessments in general (and by the way, there’s a pretty good assessment form regarding violence and aggression available here), I want to talk a little bit about one of the interventions that seems to be gaining a bit of popularity-the use of armed security officers.

Somehow in the midst of all my work-related activities, I managed to miss the event in Houston in April in which a father was Tasered by a hospital security officer while holding a newborn (use this link to check out the latest on the story, including video footage of the discharge of the Taser).

Even before I saw the footage, I have to admit that I was rather horrified at the description of the event. From a risk management and general liability standpoint, I’m just not keen on aggressively pursuing someone holding an infant (though it appears there was some indication that the father in this case was attempting to leave with the infant in some sort of custody dispute).

I’m seeing the use of armed security officers in hospitals much more frequently, and I am always curious about how well-defined the rules of engagement might be, whether they include the use of lethal force, what education has been provided, how are competencies assessed, etc.

Now you might want to call me a yellow-bellied, Massachusetts liberal type, but I’m really curious about how folks feel about this particular event. Clearly, there are opinions to be had by a great many people, some of whom will probably be involved in the pending lawsuit, but purely as a function of process, what’s up here?

If you were to use this case as a training example, how would you characterize this officer’s actions as a learning experience? Are their improvement opportunities to be had and, if so, what are they? I can’t help but think that The Joint Commission might have similar questions to ask the folks at the Houston hospital in question. If you were in a surveyor’s shoes, what would you say?

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Filed Under: OSHA

Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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