Workplace violence Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Labor unions petition OSHA for standard to prevent workplace violence in health care


Photo: Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Washington – A number of labor unions are calling on OSHA to create a standard aimed at preventing workplace violence in the health care and social services industries.

A petition was sent July 12 to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez from a coalition of unions, including the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union and United Steelworkers. It claims OSHA’s current efforts are “insufficient” to protect health care workers, and cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that workers in health care and social assistance experienced 52 percent of workplace violence incidents in 2014.

According to the petition, the standard should require:

  • A written violence prevention program
  • Hazard assessment/risk evaluation and determination
  • Hazard correction
  • Response procedures
  • Incident reporting and recordkeeping
  • Training

“Workplace violence is not part of the job. Our health care workers on the frontline of patient care in numerous hospitals and other settings need a strong federal OSHA standard to protect them from workplace violence and assaults,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a press release.

On July 11, National Nurses United, a labor union based in Silver Spring, MD, sent its own petition to Perez and OSHA administrator David Michaels, listing proposed elements for a standard. Among them:

  • A written prevention plan for “every unit, service and operation” with procedures to identify risk factors, correct hazards and respond
  • Recordkeeping
  • An annual review
  • Training

Ambulatory services, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities would apply.

Using BLS data, NNU estimated that health care workers experienced workplace violence at rates 5 to 12 times higher than the overall U.S. workforce in 2013.

“As things stand, nurses cannot keep their patients safe if they cannot guarantee their own personal safety, and it is past time for OSHA to mandate that healthcare employers create comprehensive prevention plans to stop violence before it happens,” Bonnie Castillo, NNU director of health and safety, said in a release. “We urge OSHA to accept this petition and to enter (rulemaking) immediately.”

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