NEWSWATCH
WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
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OSHA Considers Standard on Workplace Violence in Healthcare
OSHA is considering whether a standard is needed to help protect workers in healthcare and social assistance settings from workplace violence. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2014, workers in the healthcare and social assistance sector experienced workplace-violence-related injuries at an estimated incidence rate of 8.2 per 10,000 full-time workers, which is four times higher than the rate of 1.7 per 10,000 workers in the private sector overall. Individual portions of the healthcare sector such as psychiatric hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities have even higher rates.
Through a request for information (RFI) published on Dec. 7, 2016, OSHA seeks information about the scope of the problem in healthcare and social assistance, including the frequency of incidents of workplace violence, where those incidents most commonly occur, and who is most often the victim in those incidents. The agency also requests information about common risk factors that could be addressed; interventions and controls that data show are working already in the field; and the efficacy, feasibility, and cost of different options.
In 2014, workers in healthcare and social assistance experienced workplace-violence-related injuries at an incidence rate four times higher than the rate for workers in the private sector overall.

OSHA’s RFI is in response to recommendations made in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (PDF) that found that the rate of workplace violence against employees providing healthcare and social assistance services is “substantially higher” than private industry as a whole. The report, which was published in March 2016, recommends that OSHA provide additional information to help inspectors develop citations; develop a policy for following up on hazard alert letters concerning workplace violence hazards in healthcare facilities; and assess its current efforts to protect healthcare workers from workplace violence.
Comments in response to OSHA’s RFI are due by April 6, 2017. For more information, see the Federal Register notice.
On Jan. 10, OSHA held a public stakeholder meeting on preventing workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance in Washington, DC. This meeting was an opportunity for stakeholders to share personal experiences with workplace violence and discuss related topics. Nurses from National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in the U.S., testified in favor of passing workplace violence regulations. According to an NNU press release dated Jan. 10, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, PhD, MPH, on his last day in office as the head of OSHA, announced that the agency will be granting NNU’s petition for a standard to prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings. NNU submitted its petition to OSHA for “a workplace violence prevention standard with an expansive scope, thorough prevention requirements, and robust training” in July 2016.
“I agree with [NNU] that workplace violence is a serious occupational hazard that presents a significant risk for healthcare and social assistance workers,” Michaels said in a letter to NNU’s director of health and safety, Bonnie Castillo, RN. “OSHA is granting [NNU’s] petition and will commence rulemaking to address the hazards of workplace violence in the healthcare and social assistance industries.”
As this issue of The Synergist went to press, OSHA had not released an official announcement regarding the nurses’ petition. NNU’s press release is available on the organization’s website.
More information regarding OSHA’s RFI on preventing workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance is available on the agency’s website.
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Editors' note: A regulatory freeze issued January 20 potentially affects several regulations related to occupational and environmental health and safety. See the AIHA website for more information.
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