Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1299 – Workplace Violence Prevention Plans: Hospitals (Padilla, D-Pacoima). The legislation requires the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to adopt standards to require “specified types of hospitals, including a general acute care hospital or an acute psychiatric hospital, to adopt a workplace violence prevention plan as part of the hospital’s injury and illness prevention plan to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior” by no later than July 1, 2016.
The bill, while an important step in the right direction, specifically excludes state hospitals, developmental services, and corrections and rehabilitation. It also has a limited definition of workplace violence as being physical force by a patient or a person accompanying a patient. Finally, another important issue is that training is limited only to healthcare workers providing direct patient care.
Despite these limitations, the legislation includes a section that SEIU California State Council introduced, stating that the Cal/OSHA Standards Board may expand on the scope of coverage and broaden the mandated workplace violence prevention plan.
The California Safe Care Standard campaign has pushed from day one for a Cal/OSHA standard that 1) covers all California healthcare workers in all facilities, services, and operations and 2) defines workplace violence as OSHA does: “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” In other words, workplace violence is more than just physical violence and it can and does come from sources other than patients. Workplace violence affects all healthcare workers, not just some workers in some types of facilities.
What does all this mean? The Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted unanimously to promulgate a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers on June 19 and that is now underway and will continue. Nothing in this legislation should derail our focus of ensuring that we get a comprehensive standard, both in terms of coverage and definition. ALL healthcare workers deserve a safe and healthful workplace and deserve to be protected against workplace violence, whatever its source.