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OSHA to initiate rulemaking addressing workplace violence in healthcare

When we envision career fields in which the risk of workplace violence is especially acute, our thoughts naturally gravitate to areas like law enforcement and security-based work. While it's true that occupations like police officer, prison official or security guard do indeed have high rates of work-related injuries attributable to violent acts by third parties, so too do those who work in the health care sector, particularly nurses.

If you have a hard time believing it, consider that data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that in 2014 alone an astounding 52 percent of all reported incidents of workplace violence occurred against employees in the healthcare and social assistance sectors, and that the rate of workplace violence jumped by 110 percent in private hospital settings from 2005 to 2014.

Indeed, the problem has become so pronounced that some states have been moved to take action.

By way of example, California recently passed what is known as the Healthcare Workplace Violence Prevention Act, which requires all employers in this field to create sweeping prevention plans that provide the necessary protection against both real and threatened violence through training, prevention and participation.

Interestingly enough, outgoing Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels announced last Tuesday, his last day in office, that a petition filed with OSHA by National Nurses United this past summer to create a national workplace violence prevention standard similar to California's has been granted.

What this means is that OSHA will soon initiate the rulemaking process to address workplace violence in the healthcare and social assistance sectors in recognition of the fact that it is a "serious occupational hazard."

The welcome news from Michaels came just prior to an OSHA public stakeholder meeting held to discuss the need for a uniform workplace violence prevention standard in the healthcare and social assistance sectors, and provide nurses with the opportunity to share their firsthand accounts with on-the-job violence.

"Our nurses came to D.C. today to speak out on the importance of passing an enforceable workplace violence prevention standard, and we are thrilled to know that OSHA has granted NNU’s petition for that standard to begin to take shape," said an NNU director. "Such regulations are vital to protecting nurses and other healthcare workers, as well as their patients, from the epidemic of workplace violence across the U.S."  

It's truly encouraging to see that healthcare workers will soon be getting the protection they need and deserve against workplace violence.

In the meantime, if you are a nurse or other healthcare professional who's been seriously injured while on the job, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options as they relate to workers' compensation benefits.

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