In light of its strong commitment to ensure the safety and dignity of staff members as well as residents in all its 11 facilities, the CareMalta Group has introduced a new workplace violence policy as part of its general health and safety programme.

The company, founded on the core values of quality, safety, integrity, development, dignity, equality and choice, has always exercised a zero-tolerance attitude to any type of physical and psychological violence or abuse committed by both employees and residents at the workplace.

Workplace violence is a phenomenon that affects every organisation. However, environment conditions where care is provided make healthcare professionals especially vulnerable to assaults.

Violence can occur at or outside the workplace and include physical or psychological violence, assault or attack, abuse, bullying or mobbing, harassment, sexual harassment, racial harassment or a threat.

There are many factors that account for the increased incidence of violence in any residential setting. These include increased stress levels in residents and relatives, healthcare professionals coming into direct contact with a wide range of people who are under stress due to pain or illness, staff caring for people who are confused or emotionally unstable, staff often performing interventions that require close physical contact with clients and employees coming into contact with residents’ families who are often under intense emotional anxiety due to severe trauma, mental disorder or bereavement.

The policy states that when a violent incident occurs, it can be dealt with either internally and/or externally, depending on the gravity of the incident. The latter may include referral to the police. The group makes it very clear that it will not tolerate any type of violence or harassment committed by or against employees, residents or visitors at the workplace.

In many instances, acts of violence generated by a perpetrator occur after a series of unheeded warning signs. The policy cautions that employees be aware of any untoward behaviour, such as rude comments, physical violence with objects, verbal or physical abuse, threats or gestures, discriminatory abuse or even stalking.

The group strongly believes that prevention is key. Employees are therefore encouraged to take a proactive approach and learn how to recognise, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations; alert supervisors, management or head office to any concerns about safety or security; report all incidents immediately in writing; know the emergency action procedures to follow; and use security measures and control procedures.

Martin Bondin, health and safety manager of the Vassallo Group, of which CareMalta forms part, said: “This latest policy on workplace violence is one of the best policies that has been introduced so far. Research has shown that care workers are especially exposed to workplace violence due to the circumstances they work in.

“The laws of health and safety stipulate that an employer is duty bound to ensure a safe environment for all employees. On the other hand, employees should also work safely for the benefit of themselves and others around them.”

To further avoid workplace violence as much as possible, each facility has a health and safety representative, whose role is to be a point of contact for any staff member who might be experiencing any kind of violence or abuse.

“As from this year, meetings with these representatives are being held regularly with the group’s CEO, Natalie Briffa Farrugia, the senior management team and myself in order to be able to address any issues that could have been overlooked.” Mr Bondin said.

The health and safety programme is based on a number of risk assessments carried out throughout the year. “These are crucial as they identify any risks and control measures that need to be taken. Risk assessments also serve to identify training needs.”

The CareMalta Group invests heavily in training every year. Employees at all levels of operation follow a number of induction courses, followed by continuous one-to-one training, through Learning Works and iCare, its training arms.