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Massachusetts advances legislation aimed at preventing workplace violence in health care

Massachusetts State House

Photo: Jesse Kunerth/iStockphoto

Boston – Hospitals and other health care facilities in Massachusetts would be required to develop and implement workplace violence prevention programs to protect their workers as part of legislation advancing through the state House and Senate.

On March 8, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security signed off on the legislation (S.1313 and H.1687). As of press time, the bills had yet to be placed into Senate and House committees for further review.

Violent incidents “nearly doubled for nurses and nurse assistants” between 2012 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a survey conducted by the Massachusetts Nursing Association, 85 percent of union and non-union nurse respondents said they have been punched, spat on, groped, kicked, or otherwise physically or verbally assaulted. Fewer than 20 percent of nurses said their employer was supportive and pursued solutions after the violent incidents.

The legislation calls for health care employers to take several steps to protect workers. Among them:

  • Conduct annual risk assessments in cooperation with workers to identify possible risk factors for workplace violence.
  • After analyzing factors such as working hours, public access to work areas, staffing levels, working in high-crime areas and other details related to safety, develop a written violence prevention plan and implement measures to reduce the risk of violence.
  • Create an in-house crisis response team to support individuals subjected to workplace violence.

“Every day patients and health care providers are increasingly put at risk by workplace violence,” MNA Vice President Karen Coughlin, a registered nurse with the Department of Mental Health at Taunton State Hospital, said in a press release. “A hospital should be a place where patients go to heal and nurses and other health care professionals provide care in a safe environment. Positive movement on this bill is a step toward improving the safety of every hospital in Massachusetts.”

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