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Workplace Safety

Creating a Climate of Safety

Given the realities of the social work practice environment the importance of emphasizing safety for social workers is clear. The NASW MA Chapter recommends that all social service agencies have policies that address the safety of workers, management, and administration, as well as clients. Safety polices reflect the profession’s ethical values, are critical to the effective provision of services, and are integral to a positive, productive, and professional work life. Attention to safety in the workplace can reduce the level of burnout and help with staff retention.
Reports of violence against social service employees during the past decade are notable.
  • According to a 2000 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 48% of all non-fatal injuries from assaults and violent acts in an occupational setting took place in health care and social services settings. This report also noted that social workers had an incidence rate of 15 per 10,000 full-time workers for injuries resulting from assaults and acts of violence.
  • Ringstad (2005) reported the results of a national study of 1,029 NASW members, finding that:
    • 62% had been subject to psychological aggression in the past year, with 85.5% experiencing this at some point in their careers.
    • 14.7% had experienced physical assault perpetrated by clients in the past year, with 30.2% having experienced this at some point in their career.
While even the most comprehensive and detailed safety policies cannot assure safety at all times for all parties, the conscientious use of safety policies underscores the importance of safety to staff, clients, administration, and governing boards. Raising awareness about safety can create a level of preparedness that helps build an agency climate of safety.

These policy recommendations and compilation of resources were prepared by the NASW Massachusetts Safety Task Force.
NASW thanks and acknowledges the work of Earl "Skip” Stuck, Family Continuity; Eva Skolnik-Acker, Private Practice and NASW-MA; Suzanne Sankar, Simmons College School of Social Work; Bill Keaney, Boston College School of Social Work; and Bill Fisher, Springfield College School of Social Work, and assisted by co-chairs of the NASW-MA Chapter Safety Task Force, Judith Perlstein, Boston University School of Social Work, and Carol Trust, Executive Director, NASW-MA Chapter.
The National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter (NASW-MA) and its Safety Task Force provide the materials on this webpage for informational and general resources purposes only. The training and educational materials are to assist you in addressing social worker safety in the workplace. NASW-MA makes no representations or warranties regarding the training and educational materials provided on this webpage.
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