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What Factors put Social Workers at an Increased Risk of Verbal and Physical Violence?

By Ali Al Jabry, CEO & Co-founder of Kwema

Originally published on Kwema's website.

Every day, social workers all around the United States provide a wide range of services in extremely complex environments including child protective services and welfare agencies, schools, mental health centers and hospitals.  Safety can be a concern in many of these settings. Social workers are often in precarious situations without proper safety training, no co-worker, or working with limited or obsolete safety equipment. Unfortunately, there have been many social workers who have been targets of verbal and physical abuse and some have even tragically lost their lives while on the job.


As mentioned above, many social workers are employed in settings that can put them at a significant risk of experiencing verbal and physical abuse while on the job.  A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (2015) revealed that nearly 75% of the workplace assaults that occurred each year between 2011 and 2013 took place in a health care or social services setting. The vast majority of these assaults were nonfatal but many resulted in serious injuries and time away from the job.


The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has stated that social workers facing safety issues more than likely have 10 or fewer years of experience in the profession, work at social service agencies, and focus on the practice areas of mental health or child welfare/families.  These social workers are also more likely to practice in nonprofit or state government settings.


Many social work organizations have a false sense of security when it comes to worker safety.  This relates well to one of the myths in a recent blog post of ours titled, ‘6 Common Myths about Workplace Violence.’  These organizations believe that because they haven't had a violent incident in the past that they are not likely to have one in the future.  That's a dangerous assumption to have especially when you think about how little protection social workers typically have working in the same situations as their counterparts in law enforcement.  Socials Workers travel without a gun or a partner to areas where a lot of police officers would NEVER even go alone.


Kwema is an example of a safety wearable producer that can mitigate these safety risks by providing employees with discreet devices that activate an emergency protocol, alerting safety supervisors or 911.

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