While assaults from disgruntled and emotional clients are often what make the news, the most common causes of violence at veterinary clinics are often crimes of opportunity or violence from friends and relatives.
Phil Seibert, CVT, clinic safety expert, SafetyVet consultant and author of The Veterinary Safety & Health Digest, says the most vulnerable time for assault is when veterinary team members must go outside for something, but isn't leaving the premises. Seemingly mundane duties like taking out the trash to a dumpster, walking a patient or boarder or retrieving something from a vehicle put workers in a position of increased risk for violence. Seibert says employee awareness training, a well-lit facility and parking lot, and use of a "buddy system" or use of personal panic buttons can reduce the risk.
Domestic disputes carried out at work are another common problem. A current or former spouse or significant other could simply be disruptive by making unwanted, continuous calls to the practice or might show up to the practice to confront or harm their partner or someone they see as a threat. "Regardless of what emotion is causing the problem, the actions of the individual are disruptive to the practice and can not be tolerated," Seibert says. He believes corrective action must be specific and timely. If behavior is threatening, a police report should be filed immediately while a solution is sought.
Take the quiz
Click to the next page to answer a series of questions developed by Seibert to evaluate your level of protection against potential violence.
Before you begin, please remember to keep track of your answers. More "No" answers indicate a higher risk for violence or crime at your veterinary clinic.
1. When staff members exchange money with the public is it away from public view?
2. Is the practice only open during daytime hours?
3. Is the practice in a low crime area?
4. Has the practice been free from robberies in the past three years?
5. Has the practice been free from any other violent incidents in the last three years?
6. Has the practice been free from threats, harassment or other abusive behavior in the past three years?
7. Do staff members have access to a telephone with an outside line?
8. Are emergency telephone numbers for law enforcement, fire and medical services and an internal contact person posted adjacent to the phone?
9. Is the entrance to the building easily seen from the street and free of heavy shrub growth?
10. Is lighting bright in the parking lot and animal exercise areas?
11. Are all indoor lights working properly?
12. Are windows clear of advertising or other obstructions?
13. Are non-client entrance doors locked from the outside when not in use?
14. Is there a “peep hole” or window in delivery doors so that the staff can see who is knocking before opening the door?
15. Is the cash register/drawer in plain view of customers and police patrols to deter robberies?
16. Are there “peep holes” or other ways to see inside of exam rooms from the “back side” without opening the door?
17. Is there a working drop safe or time access safe to minimize cash on hand?
18. Are there height markers on exit doors to help witnesses provide more complete descriptions of assailants?
19. Is there a safe where cash and checks are stored awaiting deposit or when the practice is closed?
20. Is there a secure place for staff to store their belongings while working (such as individual lockers?)
Administrative/Work Practice Controls
21. Is there a written Violence Prevention Plan in place to address robberies and other acts of violence?
22. Have staff members been instructed to report suspicious persons or activities?
23. Have staff members been trained in emergency response procedures for robberies and other crimes that may occur on the premises?
24. Have staff members been trained in conflict resolution and nonviolent response to threatening situations?
25. Are daily receipts or change funds counted away from the front desk in an “out of sight” place?
26. Does the practice have a policy of limited cash (no more than $50) available in the register/drawer?
27. Are there signs posted notifying the public that limited cash, drugs and other high-value items are on hand?
28. Is there more than one staff member on duty at all times?
29. Are there procedures in place to assure the safety of staff members who open and close the practice and on holidays or weekends?
30. Are bank deposits made daily using a bonded courier and/or varying the times and routes to the bank?
After-Hours Practices or High-Risk Communities
31. Are security cameras placed at the front door, staff entrance door, animal exercise area and waiting room (with monitor in treatment room or activity center) in an after-hours or high-risk practice?
32. Is there an automatic locking door between the waiting room and the “back” of the hospital?
33. Is there an automatic alarm system with a “panic button” that would summon assistance?
34. Is there a “portable panic alarm” for when staff members must go outside the building?
35. Is there a designated “safe room” in the facility with a sturdy door, a lock and access to a telephone from inside the room?
36. Are staff members protected through the use of bullet-resistant enclosures in locations with a history of robberies or assaults in a high crime area?
How did your veterinary clinic fare? If you answered more questions "Yes," congratulations! If not, check out these articles on how to better protect your clinic and your team from violence and crime.
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