Nurses Urge Calif. Senate to Pass Workplace Violence Bill

By Roy Maurer May 26, 2014

Editor's Note: S.B. 1299 passed the California Senate May 29, 2014.

​The California state Senate is considering a bill that would require hospitals to develop workplace violence prevention plans to protect health care employees. The legislation (S.B. 1299), sponsored by the California Nurses Association (CNA), gained momentum after two nurses were stabbed in separate, unrelated attacks at Los Angeles-area hospitals in April.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a worker in health care is nearly five times more likely to be the victim of assault than other major industries.

A 2011 survey conducted by the American Nurses Association found that 11 percent of nurses reported being physically assaulted in the previous year. More than 50 percent said they had been threatened or verbally abused.

“We cannot stand by while nurses, other hospital staff, patients, families and visitors are put in harm’s way in hospitals that fail to provide the measures that will protect their staff and the community,” CNA Co-President Malinda Markowitz said in a statement. “It is time for the legislature to act.”

Introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, the bill would require hospitals and mental health facilities to include workplace violence prevention plans developed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) as a part of their injury and illness prevention plans by July 1, 2015.

These workplace violence plans would have to include:

  • Systems for investigating and responding to incidents of workplace violence.
  • Systems to assess and address factors that contribute to violence in the hospital, including security and staffing levels, security risks associated with specific units, facility access, and security in areas surrounding the facility such as employee parking areas.
  • Education and training programs to help employees identify and respond to workplace violence, and resources available to employees who are victims of violence.
  • Requirements for hospitals to document and report incidents of violence to Cal/OSHA.
  • Provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees who seek help from law enforcement.

The bill would also require Cal/OSHA to post a report on its website detailing workplace violence at hospitals and make recommendations on how to prevent such incidents.

“We, along with a vast majority of Californians, are concerned about the slackness of the California legislature in making issues like the health and safety of health care workers, patients and families a high priority,” said CNA Communications Director Charles Idelson.

Similar legislation was stopped last year due to opposition from the hospital industry.

The California Hospital Association contends that the legislation is unnecessary and the law would diminish any flexibility for facilities to develop plans that meet their specific needs.

The bill is likely to face stiff opposition again this year, said Alex Boals, an attorney in the Memphis, Tenn., office of Littler Mendelson. “If passed, the statute will create another extensive regulatory scheme to which California hospitals must adhere. Health care employers outside of California should take note of this development, as California’s workplace safety statute could very well open the floodgates to similar legislation throughout the country,” he said.

The American Nurses Association has proposed a model state bill with provisions that include:

  • The creation of a violence prevention committee at health care facilities tasked with drawing up a violence prevention plan. The plan would include an annual comprehensive violence risk assessment, a review of any records relating to violent incidents, and methods to reduce identified risks, including training, and changes to job design, staffing, security, equipment and facility modifications.
  • Annual violence prevention training, including techniques to de-escalate and minimize violent behavior and resources for coping with violence.
  • A record of all violent acts against employees while at work.
  • A post-incident response system that provides an in-house crisis response team for employee-victims and their co-workers, and individual and group crisis counseling, which may include support groups, family crisis intervention and professional referrals.

The organization also calls for environmental solutions, including the use of metal detectors and controlled access doors, and changes to work practices, including identifying high-risk patients.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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