State bill geared toward preventing healthcare workplace violence

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The Massachusetts Nurses Association is advocating for a state bill that would require healthcare providers to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence, specifically incidents involving patients or their family members.

The bill calls for healthcare employers to perform an annual risk assessment of factors that put employees at risk of workplace assaults, including working alone or in small numbers, working in high-crime locations or working in an area where a patient or resident may exhibit violent behavior. Under the bill employers would also be required to designate a senior manager to develop an in-house crisis response team for victims of workplace violence.

In emphasizing the importance of workplace safety, MNA cited statistics from the International Council of Nurses that says healthcare workers, especially female RNs, are at greater risk for being attack on the job than police officers and prison guards.

MNA's advocacy for the workplace violence bill comes one month after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new inspection guidelines for nursing homes, including an increased focus on workplace violence.

Massachusetts is among the states that impose increased fines for assaults against nurses. While there is no federal standard requiring workplace violence protections, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon currently require employers to run workplace violence programs; New York has a similar requirement, but only for public employers.

Workplace violence for healthcare workers also was in the news this week in Wisconsin. A 56-year-old man allegedly injured two nurses at a nursing home while trying to remove his mother from the facility. The man was arrested on charges of strangulation, battery and disorderly conduct.