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Nurses Celebrate California’s New Regulations to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings

California Nurses Association Press Release, 10/20/16

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The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (OSHSB) today voted unanimously to approve nation-leading regulations to prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings—implemented as a result of 2014 legislation, SB 1299, sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) and carried by California Secretary of State, and former State Senator, Alex Padilla on behalf of CNA.

“This is a landmark day for the entire country, as California has now set the bar with the strongest workplace violence regulation in the nation,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of health and safety for CNA/NNU.

“CNA nurses worked for years to achieve the passage of SB 1299 and have continued to push for the development of these regulations, contributing their expertise at advisory committees and public hearings, and doing everything possible to ensure that healthcare workers get the protections they deserve. Today is a huge victory,” Castillo said.

“All the nurses in this room either know someone or have themselves experienced physical violence, threats, and assault while on the job,” testified CNA co-president Deborah Burger, RN. “They all experience the fear and frustration of knowing that the procedures their employers have in place are not enough to prevent violent acts from occurring, or to respond adequately when they do.”

“I never expected to be injured; I work with children,” said RN Brandy Welch, who was hurt by a teenage patient’s thrown chair. “But now I have an injury that will chase me my entire career and after retirement. Workplace violence should not be part of the job. I am so proud that the work of my union—the California Nurses Association—has led us to this point, where we can have strong workplace violence prevention standards for healthcare workers in California.”

“One of the most important elements in preventing workplace violence is training,” said Paula Lyn, an RN at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. “Unfortunately, we know from experience that employers all too often treat training as an after-thought when it comes to health and safety issues.

“The most important goal of SB 1299 is to prevent physical harm from ever occurring in the first place. Today, the fear we face in the workplace is not just the fear that violent situations will arise, but the fear that we will not be prepared when they do. The inclusion of comprehensive and robust training requirements in these regulations is the best way to ensure that everyone is prepared,” Lyn added.

Workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry face extremely high rates of workplace violence, say nurses. In 2014, 52 percent of all the incidents of workplace violence reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occurred against workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry. And the rates have been increasing; between 2005 and 2014 rates of workplace violence incidents have increased 110 percent in private industry hospitals.

Considering a national epidemic of workplace violence against registered nurses and healthcare workers, CNA’s national arm, National Nurses United (NNU), has recently petitioned the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a formal workplace violence prevention standard.

“We know that these protections are necessary across America, and that’s why it’s so important—thanks to the OSHSB vote—that California can now serve as a model for the nation,” said Castillo. “Our nurses will not stop fighting until federal OSHA has the same workplace violence protections in place, because these regulations will save lives.”

More than 100 CNA nurses attended today’s OSHSB hearing. CNA nurses testified on the importance of passing the regulations—which define workplace violence broadly to encompass actual acts of violence, as well as the threat of violence; emphasize prevention over criminalization; and require employers to develop a comprehensive Workplace Violence Prevention Plan including prevention, training, and worker participation.

 After unanimously voting to approve the regulations, board members thanked the nurses and other healthcare workers for sharing personal testimonies over the two-year process of developing the regulations set into place by SB1299.

The implementation process for the workplace violence prevention regulations will begin in January 2017. California Nurses Association represents nearly 100,000 registered nurses throughout the state.

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