Nurses' Union Asks OSHA for Violence Standard

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By Stephen Lee

July 11 — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should put in place a workplace violence prevention standard, National Nurses United said in a petition to the agency.

The petition, announced July 11, dovetails with OSHA's stated goal to start work on a violence prevention standard for the health-care sector, announced in May (RIN:1218-AD08). However, OSHA hasn't yet laid out any specifics for what its pending rule might include, and the NNU's petition provides a few hints.

Among other things, the NNU said a rule should require employers to put violence prevention programs in place, in all units and work areas, as well as all facility grounds, including parking structures. Workers should be allowed to take part in creating and reviewing the plans, the NNU said.

Further, the petition would require employers to provide interactive training and post-incident response—including first aid, trauma counseling and injury investigations—and would forbid them from retaliating against workers who seek the help of law enforcement during an incident.

The NNU's petition would further call on OSHA to assess workplace violence risk factors, including staffing levels.

The petition covers general acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, home care, mental health treatment centers and other types of facilities—“everywhere health-care workers are at risk,” Bonnie Castillo, safety and health director for the NNU, said.

OSHA could not be reached for comment. However, David Michaels, the agency's head, has spoken out several times about the need to control violence in health-care settings.

NNU: ‘Past Time' for OSHA to Act

“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 health-care employers create comprehensive prevention plans to stop violence before it happens,” Castillo said in a statement. “Workers and their unions have the right to petition OSHA to promulgate that protective standard.”

Some states have moved forward on their own violence prevention standards in health care. For example, in California, regulators have drafted regulations that require general acute care hospitals and acute psychiatric hospitals to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans, conduct annual reviews of their plans, maintain violent incident logs and train their workers.

From 2003 to 2012, two-thirds of the 154,460 injuries due to workplace violence involving days away from work occurred in the health-care and social-assistance sectors, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. John Howard, the institute's director, said last month that those figures make health care more dangerous than construction.

OSHA says it plans to issue a request for information on its proposed rule in November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Lee in Washington at stephenlee@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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