Working in a corrections facility is a challenging and demanding job that involves managing individuals who are incarcerated or detained. Corrections facilities staff members face unique occupational health risks due to the nature of their work. This can have significant physical and mental health effects. In addition to health risks, corrections facilities staff members also face safety risks. Risks include assaults and violence from inmates, use of force, and inadequate training and equipment. Factors such as overcrowding and understaffing can exacerbate these risks and make it difficult to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. In this article, we will explore the health and safety risk factors faced by corrections facilities staff members, the factors that contribute to these risks, and strategies for mitigating them. We will also discuss the importance of prioritizing staff health and safety in corrections facilities to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
Health Risks in Corrections Facilities
Correctional officers face a variety of health risks due to the nature of their work. These risks can have significant physical and mental health effects on officers and can impact their overall quality of life.
One of the most prominent health risks for correctional officers is exposure to communicable diseases. One study revealed that over 20% of inmates report carrying an infectious disease. Overcrowding in prisons increases the rate of dissemination. Inmates are more likely to carry infectious agents such as tuberculosis and hepatitis. This puts officers at a higher risk of contracting these diseases. Additionally, asbestos is still common in many old correctional facilities. Asbestos exposure can lead to respiratory illnesses, skin rashes, and other health problems.
The mental wear and tear that corrections work causes can be devastating. The job involves managing individuals who are incarcerated or detained, which can be a highly volatile and unpredictable environment. Due to this volatility, correctional officers experience high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Another study revealed that corrections officers experience PTSD at a rate twice as high as military veterans.
Safety Risks in Corrections Facilities
Correctional officers also face a variety of safety risks while on the job. Working in a high-security environment, officers must remain vigilant at all times to prevent and respond to violent incidents.
One of the primary safety risks for correctional officers is violence from inmates. Officers must manage individuals who are incarcerated or detained, which can be a highly volatile and unpredictable environment. Inmates may become aggressive, confrontational, or violent towards officers, which can lead to physical injuries, including cuts, bruises, fractures, and even death. Officers are injured by work-related violence and assaults at a rate of 254 per 10,000 officers.
Another safety risk for correctional officers is the use of force. Officers must use physical force to manage individuals who are uncooperative or aggressive. This use of force, though necessary in some cases, can lead to more officer injuries.
In addition to violence and force, correctional officers may face risks in their work environment. Factors such as inadequate lighting, faulty equipment, and poor ergonomic design can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, such as strains and sprains. OSHA has specific regulations for correctional facilities, along with requirements for all businesses.
Mitigation Strategies for Health and Safety Risks
Several mitigation strategies can help address the health and safety risks faced by correctional facilities staff. Here are a few examples of strategies to try:
Implementing effective safety policies and procedures
Correctional facilities can develop policies and procedures that clearly outline safety protocols, emergency response plans, and the proper use of equipment and tools, as well as equipment maintenance. By ensuring that staff members are trained on these policies and procedures, correctional facilities can reduce the risk of preventable injuries.
Providing regular training and education
Providing regular training and education to staff members can help them to understand better the risks associated with their work, such as inmate violence, and to develop the skills necessary to manage those risks effectively. This can include training on topics such as crisis management, communication, conflict resolution, and the use of force.
Conducting hazard assessments
Conducting regular hazard assessments can help identify potential safety risks in the workplace and develop strategies to mitigate those risks. Hazard assessments should include an evaluation of the physical environment, equipment, and work practices. These assessments should be conducted regularly to make sure that the workplace is safe for employees and inmates.
Implementing effective infection control measures
To reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission, correctional facilities should implement effective infection control measures such as hand hygiene, proper use of PPE, and isolation protocols for infected individuals.
Providing mental health support
The high-stress nature of work in a correctional facility can lead to mental health issues for staff members. Correctional facilities should provide access to mental health support and counseling services to help staff members cope with the emotional and psychological demands of their work.
By implementing these mitigation strategies, correctional facilities can create a safe and healthy work environment for staff members and reduce the risk of injuries, illnesses, and other health and safety risks.
It is clear that the health and safety risks faced by corrections facilities staff members are significant and require urgent attention. To effectively mitigate these risks, corrections facilities need to prioritize staff health and safety and work with occupational health experts to implement comprehensive occupational health and safety programs.
We Can Help!
At Work Health Solutions, we have extensive experience in addressing the unique health and safety concerns of staff members in corrections facilities. Our team of occupational health experts can provide customized solutions that address the specific risks faced by your staff members, including regular medical exams, mental health support, and hazard assessments. We can also help you implement effective policies and procedures and provide training and equipment to protect against workplace hazards. Together, we can create a safe and healthy work environment for corrections facilities staff members. Contact Work Health Solutions today to learn more about how we can help you prioritize staff health and safety in your corrections facility.