Safety in the workplace is important to ASHA. The dramatic increase in violence that is occurring in health care settings is a looming concern for all professionals who work within the health care space. This concern includes audiologists, who have unique, job-specific work environments specific to the requirements of the audiology profession. Their colleagues—many of whom work in health care or in an administrative capacity but not directly in audiology and some of whom share the physical workspace with audiologists—may not be familiar with these job-specific environments. The nature of audiology work and the equipment specifications may require that audiologists work in locations that are far removed from their fellow health care workers. This limits communication with the rest of their department or staff.
Depending on the state and facility, health care workers—including audiologists—have fewer opportunities to unionize and fewer opportunities to address safety concerns. Unions typically protect and promote workers, bargaining for better wages and benefits as well as improved working and safety conditions. It’s fortunate that advocacy is a shared interest between unions and professional associations, as is the case for ASHA. ASHA develops a public policy agenda each year to identify priorities aimed at supporting laws, regulations, and payment policies for audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs). In September 2022, ASHA announced its support of the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which will require the U.S. Department of Labor to issue workplace violence prevention standards to protect health care and social service workers—and this includes audiologists.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as violent acts (including physical assaults and threats of assaults) directed toward persons at work or on duty. Concerns for protecting health care and social service workers from violence in the workplace date back to 1996, when OSHA published its first guidance document addressing workplace violence in health care and social assistance industries. According to NIOSH (2020), the health care industry is known to lag behind other industries in addressing occupational hazards. The factors that may contribute to this lag are worth noting:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that health care and social service industries have the highest rates of injuries from workplace violence. These rates were 5 times higher for health care and social service workers and are increasing at a faster rate when compared with other industries (U.S. Department of Labor). Incidents of violence against health care workers have increased with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic (Ramzi, Fatah, & Dalvandi, 2022). According to NIOSH, there are common risk factors for violence in the workplace, some of which apply to audiologists working in various settings. These factors include working when understaffed, working alone or in small numbers, poor environmental design, inadequate security, working in high-crime areas, and working in community-based settings.
Audiologists can perform audiologic services in an environment that is appropriate and safe. Clinical, environmental, organizational, and social/economic risk factors impact the risk of violence in clinical settings. These risk factors are important to consider when addressing safety concerns after a crisis event. Audiology colleagues discussing, supporting, and acknowledging the unique work conditions (e.g., the challenges of working in a sound booth, the need for a communication/alerting system) helps improve safety for audiologists and ensures that their unique needs are included in conversations about safety. In addressing the safety concerns of audiologists, we hope to educate professionals in and outside of audiology, encouraging discussion and collaboration to create safer environments for audiologists, staff members, students, and patients.
The following resources address safety concerns of audiologists. Use them to educate professionals in and outside of audiology, and to encourage discussion and collaboration with the goal of creating safer environments for audiologists, staff members, students, and patients.
Audiologist Self Reflection Checklist on Workplace Safety [PDF]
Use this checklist to review safety concerns in your work environment and prepare for a productive conversation about safety in the workplace with your staff or employer.
Example of a completed checklist [PDF]
View an example of a completed checklist.
Sample Letter to Employer [PDF]
This sample letter can be used as a model for contacting and documenting your safety concerns with your employer.
ASHA Take Action
Ask Congress to Help Protect Audiologists and SLPs from Workplace Violence.
ASHA letter supporting the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act [PDF]
Read a letter stating ASHA’s support of the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.
ASHA Issue Brief [PDF]