Health Law Highlights

Rx for Safety: Workplace Violence Policies in Healthcare Settings

From Akerman, LLP, by Emily C. Ayvazian and Danielle C. Gordet:

Healthcare workers are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than workers in other industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a trend that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified this as a significant occupational risk, prompting many states to mandate workplace violence standards for the healthcare industry.

Despite no federal law protecting workers from workplace violence, employers are obligated to provide a safe working environment under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA is also in the early stages of developing a standard for preventing workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance. Key components of an effective workplace violence prevention program include management commitment, worker participation, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety training, and recordkeeping and program evaluation.

Several states, including California and Texas, have implemented laws to curb workplace violence against healthcare workers. These laws mandate that healthcare employers create and implement workplace violence prevention plans, with specific requirements that must be reviewed annually. The laws also require that workplace violence incidents be logged and investigated and that workers participate in creating their employers’ workplace violence prevention plans.

Healthcare facilities should establish comprehensive workplace violence policies, which include a zero-tolerance policy, clear directives on reporting workplace hazards or safety concerns, and measures to ensure no worker faces retaliation for reporting incidents of workplace violence. The policy should also account for each location’s specific worksite and varying risk levels.

Effective training regarding workplace violence policy is crucial. Employers must ensure all workers know the policy and understand how to adhere to it. Specialized training should be provided for supervisors and security personnel, and the training should be evaluated annually to determine if updates are needed.