• New Workplace Violence Prevention Requirements for Hospitals Provide a Road Map for all Employers
  • February 8, 2016 | Authors: Katherine A. Hren; Richard S. Rosenberg
  • Law Firm: Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt LLP - Glendale Office
  • In 2014, the California State Legislature passed a law that aims to prevent workplace violence in the health care industry. They picked this industry to regulate because statistics show that a worker in health care is nearly five times more likely to be the victim of a violent act at work than the average worker in all other major industries combined. With workplace violence incidents on the rise, employers in any industry would benefit from developing and implementing a workplace violence prevention and action plan.

    The healthcare law directs the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health Board (OSHA) to pass regulations by July 1, 2016 that will require certain types of hospitals to adopt "a workplace violence prevention plan."

    While the details are still being worked out, the proposed standards define workplace violence broadly as "any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs at the work site." This includes "the threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress," or an "incident involving the threat or use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon."

    Notably, the definition of workplace violence includes mere threats of violence.

    Furthermore, the proposed regulations cover the four major types of perpetrators of violent encounters that healthcare employers are likely to experience: (1) by someone with "no legitimate business at the worksite;" (2) by a person who is the beneficiary of the services provided; (3) by a current or past employee; or (4) by someone who "has a personal relationship with an employee."

    The proposed regulations require certain facilities to adopt a formal workplace violence prevention policy that would broadly apply to general and acute care hospitals, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, congregate living health facilities, correctional treatment centers, hospice facilities, as well other kinds of hospitals and health care facilities.

    Under the proposed regulations, a workplace violence prevention plan would be required to include a number of specific provisions. Among other things, that plan must include:
    • Education and training policies that allow health care workers to learn about the workplace violence prevention plan;
    • A system for responding to and investigating violent incidents or situations involving the risk of violence;
    • Effective procedures to actively involve employees and their representatives in developing, implementing, and reviewing the Plan;
    • A policy prohibiting the employer from disallowing an employee from, or taking punitive or retaliatory action against an employee for, seeking assistance and intervention from local emergency services or law enforcement when a violent incident occurs;
    • Procedures to identify and evaluate environmental risk factors, including community-based risk factors, for each facility, unit, service, or operation;
    • Procedures to identify and evaluate patient-specific risk factors and assess visitors;
    • Procedures to correct workplace violence hazards in a timely manner;
    • Procedures for post-incident response and investigation; and
    • Requiring that records of violent incidents be retained for five years.
    In light of these proposed regulations, it is clear that employers covered by these regulations will have a lot to consider when preparing and implementing their workplace violence prevention plans. We can assist you in your review of current policies and develop a plan that will meet the numerous new requirements.