A Safer Workplace for California Health Care Workers Begins April 1
Workplace Violence Prevention Regulations Go In Effect April 1
Following years of advocacy work, registered nurses and health care professionals from the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) will finally see their efforts come to fruition with the implementation of new workplace violence prevention regulations in California.
Beginning April 1, 2017 employers must comply with recordkeeping and reporting requirements in the Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare standard approved by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). Additional requirements, including the establishment of a workplace violence prevention plan, training of employees, and review of the prevention plan will be implemented by April 1, 2018.
The importance of establishing such regulations was made clear – and personal – by members of UNAC/UHCP, who shared personal stories with the media of being attacked in the workplace, signed a petition to Cal/OSHA calling for protections, rallied and testified at Cal/OSHA hearings throughout California as regulations were being drafted. Among those testifying was UNAC/UHCP Secretary Elizabeth Hawkins, RN.
“A patient punched me in the back of the head, slamming my head into a concrete wall and I was temporarily blinded,” said Hawkins in describing the nightmare she faced as an RN in a Riverside emergency room. “Ask any health care worker you know and they are bound to have a story about violence in the workplace. I was injured by my hospital’s policies, and by the fact that there was no system in place to address issues of workplace violence.”
Violence against health care professionals is a serious problem. A 2016 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes the problem in detail. In California, for instance, GAO found that 26 percent of the more than 4,000 workplace injuries from 2003 to 2013 “were due to patient assaults and amounted to $16.6 million in workers’ compensation costs over this time period.”
“We should not be placed in harm’s way because of poor policy and inadequate regulations related to workplace violence,” said RN Scott Byington. “We need improved Cal/OSHA standards so we can have better security and keep patients and health care workers safe.”
California is the first state to enact health care safety regulations that apply to both public and private health care workers.
“California has always been at the helm of progress, charting new courses in health care. We lead the nation in setting precedents and standards to bring about necessary change,” said UNAC/UHCP President Denise Duncan, RN. “The new California regulations will ensure enforceable safety measures are put in place and protect health care professionals from unexpected on-the-job assaults.”