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Workplace violence plagues healthcare industry

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By Michael Boardman, CEO, Readiness Associates

It’s an alarming statistic: Fifty-two percent of all workplace violence incidents in 2014 occurred in the healthcare and social assistance industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between January 2012 and September 2014, more than 100 healthcare facilities across the country reported nearly 11,000 injuries attributable to workplace violence.

In response to those shocking numbers, U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California’s 17th District introduced, in March 2018, House Resolution 5223, the “Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act.”

‘Unacceptable’ risks to healthcare workers

“Health care workers, doctors, and nurses are continuously at risk of workplace violence incidents – strangling, punching, kicking and other physical attacks – that can cause severe injury or death. This is simply unacceptable,” said Khanna in a statement after introducing the bill. “The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act puts a comprehensive plan in place and is a national solution to this widespread problem modeled after the success seen in California.”

Four years ago, Khanna’s state enacted a law to reduce workplace violence in healthcare facilities. That statute required California healthcare employers to create and issue plans to prevent violence and protect patients and workers.

According to Khanna’s statement, “the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act would direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an OSHA rule that requires health care employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. The violence prevention plan must be developed with input from all affected parties including, but not limited to, doctors, nurses, and custodial staff. The bill allows for one year for promulgation of the rule and another six months for health care facilities to create and implement their violence prevention plans.”

Nurses back the House bill

National Nurses United voiced its support for the bill after it was introduced.

“National Nurses United applauds Congressman Khanna for his important leadership in introducing the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act,” said Bonnie Castillo, R.N., executive director of the organization. “If passed, this legislation would have a dramatic impact on the lives of nurses, healthcare workers, and patients across the country. 

"Nurses and other healthcare workers regularly suffer violent incidents while caring for patients at the bedside. We know that the frequency and severity of these violent attacks can be drastically reduced through workplace violence prevention plans that are specific to the needs of each facility and are created with input from nurses and other workers. We urge every Member of Congress to support this bill."

CMS Emergency Preparedness Program

In November 2017 the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services implemented the CMS Emergency Preparedness Program. The program requires that 17 types of healthcare organizations perform risk assessment and planning and develop policies and procedures, a communications plan, and a training and testing program.

Emergency preparedness/response professionals can help healthcare organizations keep their facilities safe for workers, patients and visitors, and recover should the unthinkable occur.