To promote a “culture of safety” in health care facilities and help protect health care workers from incidents of workplace violence in the state of Pennsylvania, the ‘Health Care Facilities Workplace Violence Prevention Act’ (House Bill 1992) was recently introduced in the Pennsylvania House, according to a report from HealthCanal.com. HB 1992 – a joint effort by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) and State Representative Nicholas Micozzie (R-163) – requires Pennsylvania hospitals and other health care facilities to take steps to protect health care workers from suffering from workplace violence that include security risks assessments, finding ways to create a safer workplace, and helping workplace violence victims report incidents.
Specifically, the ‘Health Care Facilities Workplace Violence Prevention Act’ would provide for “violence prevention committees” in health care facilities, for their powers and duties, and for remedies. HB 1992 helps health care facilities develop a plan addressing risk factors, train security personnel, build staffing, and create a hospital “culture of safety.” HB 1992 calls for the creation of a violence prevention committee pursuant to the law:
- Establishment. – A health care facility shall establish a violence prevention committee to establish review, administer, and provide guidance about a program relating to the prevention of workplace violence at the health care facility.
- Membership. – A committee shall be comprised as follows: (1) At least one member of the committee who shall represent management or a designee, who shall oversee all aspects of the program. (2) At least 50% of the members of the committee shall have direct patient care responsibilities, with the majority being licensed nurses. (3) The remaining members of the committee shall have experience, expertise or responsibility relevant to violence prevention or any other expertise that is considered beneficial to the committee.
- Operation of Committee and Program. – In the case of a health care system that owns or operates more than one covered health care facility, the committee and program may be operated at the system or department level, provided that: (1) Committee membership includes at least one health care worker from each facility who provides direct care to patients. (2) The committee develops a violence prevention plan for each facility. (3) Data related to violence prevention remain distinctly identifiable for each facility.
HB 1992 also outlines the duties of the violence prevention committee, which include an annual risk assessment evaluation of any factors that may put an employee of the health care facility at risk of workplace violence and the reparation of a report from the risk assessment and establishment a violence prevention program. If there is more than one health care facility within a system, there shall be a program established for each health care facility. The committee shall also develop a written violence prevention plan that identifies workplace risks and provides specific methods to address them and the health care facility will have appropriate employee training to minimize workplace violence.
As for remedies, HB 1992 provides that: “Where a health care facility has been found to have engaged in conduct which caused or maintained a substantial risk of further workplace violence, including failing to implement the recommendations of the committee, a court may enjoin the health care facility from engaging in the illegal activities and may order any other relief that is appropriate, including, but not limited to, reinstatement, removal of the offending party from the employee’s work environment, reimbursement for lost wages, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress and attorney fees.”
The new legislation in Pennsylvania comes in response to the recent rise in workplace violence incidents targeting health care professionals across the U.S., particularly nurses. As previously reported in a November 2010 ESR News blog, over half of the nurses surveyed by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) – a mean of 54.8 percent – reported experiencing physical or verbal abuse at work in the past seven days, and between eight and 13 percent of emergency nurses are victims of workplace violence incidents every week in the U.S..
In addition, the ENA’s Emergency Department Violence Surveillance Study found that 15 percent of emergency nurses who reported experiencing physical violence said they sustained a physical injury as a result of the incident and that no action was taken against the perpetrator of workplace violence in 44.9 percent of cases. Furthermore, almost three out of four emergency nurses – 74.4 percent – who were victims of workplace violence reported that the hospital gave them no response regarding that workplace violence.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines “workplace violence” as any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the workplace, and violence includes overt and covert behaviors ranging in aggressiveness from verbal harassment to murder. Recognizing workplace violence as a serious occupational hazard that has ranked among the top causes of death in workplaces in recent years, OSHA recently issued a directive on ‘Enforcement Procedures for Investigating or Inspecting Incidents of Workplace Violence’ that is available at: http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_02-01-052.pdf.
The full text of Pennsylvania House Bill 1992 (HB 1992) the ‘Health Care Facilities Workplace Violence Prevention Act’ is available here. According to the text, “this act shall take effect in 180 days.”
Background checks should be a part of any workplace violence prevention program. For more information about workplace violence, and how pre-employment background screening can help create a “culture of safety” for any hospital, health care organization, or business, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a nationwide background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – at http://www.esrcheck.com/ or call Toll Free at 888.999.4474.
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