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Tue., July 12, 2011, 8:36 a.m.

Most violent job in Washington? Nurses aide

SEATTLE — The most violent job in Washington state isn’t being a police officer or a security guard. It’s working as a nurse’s aide.

Seattle public radio station KUOW-FM made that finding as part of an investigative series on workplace safety airing this week. The station found that violence strikes health care workers in Washington at six times the state average, and frontline caregivers in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards get assaulted even more than that.

The single most violent workplace in the state is at Western State Hospital, where criminal defendants are taken when they are found incompetent to stand trial. Workers at psychiatric hospitals are assaulted on the job more often than anybody else — 60 times more than the average worker in Washington state.

According to a story from The Associated Press, KUOW also found that even though working on steel towers remains one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, right up there with commercial fishing, line workers for Seattle City Light and other northwest power companies aren’t strapped in while they climb such towers. Instead, they only strap safety ropes to their harnesses once they’ve climbed up to where they’ll be working — around 200 feet above ground in some cases.  

Though several line worker deaths from falls were reported in other states last year, none has been reported in Washington in the past decade.  

James Robinson, president of the union for many workers at Western State Hospital, says there were 313 assaults there last year — a drop of nearly 30 percent in assaults per patient-care hour, though union officials also note that many incidents go unreported because of the time required to fill out paperwork about assaults. 

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Scott Maben
Scott Maben joined The Spokesman-Review in 2006. He currently is the Business Editor.

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