Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare

Washington, DC — Legislation that would direct OSHA to issue a standard, requiring employers in health care and social services industries to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans, is on track to be voted in the House.

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Workers Act (H.R. 1309) seeks an enforceable federal standard to disrupt the growing level of violence against nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders, and other caregivers.

The bill would offer protections to public-sector workers in the states not under OSHA oversight while calling on employers to identify risks, specify solutions, and require training, reporting and incident investigations.

The legislation also would require an interim final OSHA standard one year after enactment and the completion of a final standard within 42 months.

However, some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the legislation creating duplicate anti-workplace violence measures for health care facilities that already have them in place and allowing only a limited opportunity for the public and stakeholders to review and comment on the bill.

Carson City, NVSafety + Health reports that Nevada has become the latest state to require certain health care employers to create and implement workplace violence prevention programs and report incidents.

Signed into law June 12 by Gov. Steve Sisolak (D), A.B. 348 mandates that prevention programs be “unit specific” and created in collaboration with employees. The law defines workplace violence as any acts of violence or threats, even if the employee isn’t injured.

In addition, plans must:

  • Show how employers will implement prevention measures, such as alarms and security response;
  • Include methods for employees to report all incidents of workplace violence without fear of retaliation;
  • Establish effective training programs that include de-escalation training for employees who have contact with patients; and
  • Provide methods for reporting certain incidents to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations.

The law applies to hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and at-home nursing employers with at least 50 employees, as well as immediate care, skilled nursing, community triage, and modified medical detoxification facilities.

According to a report in ASH Clinical News, the health-care sector spends billions of dollars related to managing workplace violence.

A 2017 report prepared for the American Hospital Association estimated that workplace violence cost U.S. hospital and health systems approximately $2.7 billion in 2016, including $280 million related to preparedness and prevention, $852 million in unreimbursed medical care for victims, $1.1 billion in security and training costs, and an additional $429 million in medical care, staffing, indemnity, and other costs related to violence against hospital employees.6

Further, health workers who were victims of violence experienced an average of 112.8 hours per year of sick, disability, and leave time (excluding long- and short-term disability), which was 60.4 hours more per year than counterparts who had not experienced workplace violence.