Making History for California Healthcare Workers

The first Cal/OSHA Workplace Violence in Healthcare Advisory Meeting was held on September 10 in Oakland to begin the process of hammering out what will possibly be the country’s first-ever comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard covering all healthcare workers.

More than 70 people – including healthcare workers, union activists, workplace health and safety advocates, and employer representatives – spoke to various parts of the agenda throughout the five hour-long public meeting.

After a short discussion about the rulemaking process and background, Dr. Jane Lipscomb – a recognized subject matter expert – provided an overview of the hazard of workplace violence in the healthcare industry and her own and other scholars’ extensive and decades-long research on the subject. The problem of workplace violence in the healthcare industry is huge, said Dr. Lipscomb, despite twenty years of knowing about it. Evidence shows, however, that facilities that have strong workplace violence prevention programs experience reduced assaults on staff.

There was broad support for using OSHA’s definition of workplace violence, which states that workplace violence is “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite.”

Healthcare workers spoke to the need for the standard to cover all healthcare workers employed directly or indirectly by public and private facilities, service categories, or operations, regardless of location, stressing that workplace violence doesn’t know any boundaries in the healthcare industry, either in terms of where the violence occurs or who the victim is. As one person summed it up, “If some people aren’t free of workplace violence, then no one is free of it.”

During the discussion about what components should be included in an effective workplace violence prevention program, people stressed the need for site-specific hazard assessments and the critical importance of post-incident debriefing and aftercare, among other things.

This was an incredibly positive meeting, in large part because of all of the healthcare workers from around California who came and spoke up about what they need to be safe at their various worksites. Thank you to everyone who attended; check out the photo album we posted on our Facebook page.

We’ll be posting more information about the next meeting soon.

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