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OSHA Considers National Standard to Prevent Health Care Workplace Violence

Halpern, Lucy Wang

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: April 2017 - Volume 117 - Issue 4 - p 15
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000515216.84968.7c
In the News

The federal effort continues amid uncertainty under a new White House administration.

Lucy Wang Halpern



In 2014, health care and social assistance workers suffered injuries from workplace violence at a rate more than quadruple that of private sector employees overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they represented 52% of all such incidents reported to the bureau. This alarming rate of workplace violence prompted National Nurses United, AFL–CIO, and other unions in July 2016 to petition the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to craft a federal standard for preventing violence against these workers.

Calls for a federal standard come on the heels of action taken in California, which last year adopted the nation's toughest health care workplace violence prevention rules. Although at least nine states have enacted measures against workplace violence in health care settings, they vary widely in scope and enforcement. California's Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care standard requires health care facilities to establish and implement a comprehensive program by April 2017. Among specific requirements are that health care facilities perform annual security and safety assessments, provide training, document violent incidents, and establish procedures to address workplace violence.

In response to pressure for federal action by union officials and others, OSHA last December issued a request for information on health care workplace violence prevention, and outgoing OSHA head David Michaels commenced this rule-making process with a public hearing last January shortly before President Donald Trump took office. The hearing featured health care workers sharing their experiences of workplace violence and ideas for better safety and protection policies.

However, uncertainty surrounds OSHA's direction under the Trump administration, despite the agency's mandate to insure health and safety in the workplace. For now, though, the process begun under the administration of President Barack Obama is continuing; the deadline for submitting comments on a federal standard is April 6.—Lucy Wang Halpern

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