Personnel in detention/prison facilities should be continuously aware and prepared for the risks they might face on the job. The work in these facilities can be extremely stressful—both physically and mentally for guards, custodians, or medical personnel. Detention workers also run the risk of exposure to physical attack or infection from bodily fluids.
Bodily fluid exposure
Bloodborne pathogen exposure from splashes or contact with blood is a serious hazard when violence erupts. The most common exposure is a splash of blood or other bodily fluids to an eye, nose, and mouth or a puncture from a bite, scratch, or serious wound. If you are required to respond to these emergency incidents, wear body armor, long sleeves, and pants to protect your body. Gloves and safety glasses/goggles will protect you from accidental exposure. Evaluate different types of equipment to ensure that it does not hamper your response while protecting yourself or others.
Avoid situations where an inmate can use blood, urine, or feces to attack by using proper techniques to enter an inmate’s cell. Know what to do if you are exposed, who to report it to and how to follow-up with medical attention. By receiving a vaccination for Hepatitis B, you can protect yourself from contracting the disease.
If you suspect an inmate has tuberculosis (TB), isolate and transport them for medical attention. Use respiratory protection such as an N95 respirator when entering isolation rooms or working with potentially infectious inmates. Be sure to get a yearly TB test to ensure you have not been exposed.
Your physical and mental condition
Detention workers must stay in top physical condition and remain alert when you are at work. Get training such as managing aggressive behavior to help control behavioral situations. Have an emergency code and response plan for these incidents; practice the response drill frequently and in different scenarios.
The level of required alertness and the unpredictable nature of the inmates in your workplace can cause stress. To help manage stress, remember to:
- Keep fit and in good overall health.
- Get the training you need to feel prepared and in control at work.
- Talk about your job tasks and stresses with your supervisor to get guidance for controlling stress.
- Get debriefing counseling individually, or as a group after emergency incidents to help you cope with the emotions and stress.
Everyone should inspect the workplace for hazards and correct or report them. Maintain good housekeeping by:
- Not storing items piled in walkways or exits.
- Ensuring that lights, locks, and flooring are in good condition.
- Making sure equipment such as carts and communication devices are in working order.
- Evaluating chemical storage and use at your facility.
- Preventing inmate access to concentrated chemicals that may be used as weapons.
- Maintaining strict control of knives and other sharps that could be used as weapons.
- Keeping an eye out when inspecting the grounds and perimeters.
Remember your work environment can be indoors or outdoors, and physically challenging. It is important to maintain your fitness, control your stress, and receive the proper training so that you can respond to any type of emergency on the job. Your life as well as the lives of the detainees depend on it.