Nurses: Violence in Health Care Settings Demands Federal Action

The largest union of registered nurses in the country has petitioned the federal government to create a workplace violence prevention standard. The extreme threat faced by workers in health care settings—including those working in home care—makes this an urgent matter, the union stated in its petition to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Health care workers experience workplace violence at a rate 5 to 12 times higher than workers overall, National Nurses United (NNU) stated in a press release announcing the petition. That figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that existing standards are inadequate to protect nurses, the union argued.

The state of California is on the verge of finalizing regulations that could serve as a national model, according to NNU.

These are among the provisions called for by NNU:

– A thorough OSHA assessment of workplace violence risk factors, including staffing levels, and the implementation of prevention measures.

– A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program that is implemented at all times, in all units and work areas and on all facility grounds, including parking structures.

– Employee participation in plan creation and review.

“This petition has an expansive scope, like the proposed California regulations—so it includes general acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, home care and other field work, mental health treatment centers, and others—everywhere healthcare workers are at risk,” said NNU Director of Health and Safety Bonnie Castillo.

OSHA should begin the formal rulemaking process promptly, NNU is urging. The federal agency indicated earlier this spring that it will indeed create a violence prevention standard that is specific for health care settings.

Written by Tim Mullaney

Photo Caption: “Violence” by Carlos, CC BY-ND 2.0