By Pauline Bartolone | Kaiser Health News
Workers in California’s hospitals and doctors’ offices may be less likely to get hit, kicked, bitten or grabbed under workplace standards adopted by a state workplace safety board.
Regulators within the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) approved a rule last Thursday that would require hospitals and other employers of health professionals to develop violence prevention protocols and involve workers in the process. The standard now will be reviewed by the Office of Administrative Law, which proponents expect will approve the new rules. The earliest they could take effect would be January 2017.
“This is a landmark day for the entire country,” said Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse who is director of health and safety for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, which represents 185,000 registered nurses across the U.S.
There are no federal rules specifically protecting workers from violence, but some states, including California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey require public employers to take preventive measures, according to the American Nurses Association.
The Cal/OSHA rules apply to private health care facilities in the state and are more robust than existing workplace protection rules, union officials say. Site-specific assessments will be done to identify violence risks, and the resulting plans to prevent injuries will address concerns identified by workers.
“California has now set the bar with the strongest workplace violence regulation in the nation,” wrote Castillo in a statement.
National research shows that health care workers are at a “substantially higher” risk of workplace violence than the average worker. In 2013, for example, private-sector hospital workers were five times more likely to take time off from work because of an injury caused by violence than a typical private sector worker.
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