BOSTON, Mass – The Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security has voted favorably on An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence, advancing the legislation and boosting efforts to combat rampant violence against nurses and other health care workers throughout Massachusetts.
Filed by Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, and Sen. Michael D. Brady, D-Brockton, the legislation will require health care employers to perform an annual safety risk assessment and, based on those findings, develop and implement programs to minimize the danger of workplace violence to employees and patients.
“Every day patients and health care providers are increasingly put at risk by workplace violence,” said MNA Vice President Karen Coughlin, a registered nurse with the Department of Mental Health at Taunton State Hospital. “A hospital should be a place where patients go to heal and nurses and other health care professionals provide care in a safe environment. Positive movement on this bill is a step toward improving the safety of every hospital in Massachusetts.”
Components of S.1313/H.1687 include:
• Requires health care employers to perform annual risk assessments in cooperation with employees to identify factors which may put employees at risk for workplace violence
• Requires hospitals to look at factors like working hours, public access to the area, working in high-crime areas, staffing levels and other factors that affect safety
• Requires hospitals to then develop a written violence prevention plan and put measures in place to minimize risks
• Requires the creation of an in-house crisis response team to support victims of workplace violence
“I am a proud sponsor of this important piece of legislation,” said Sen. James Timilty, D- Walpole. “Violence in the workplace takes place all too often and this bill will require employers to take the next step in creating and fostering a safe environment for their employees.”
Sen. Brady thanked the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security Chairs Timilty and Rep. Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, along with members of the committee for reporting out favorably “this critical piece of legislation.”
“Violence in health care settings is on the rise,” Brady said. “Nurses and other health care workers suffer violent assaults at a rate 12 times higher than other industries. This bill will require health care employers to annually perform a risk assessment and based on those findings develop and implement programs to minimize the danger of workplace violence to employees and patients."
Fear of violence and physical and verbal abuse is widespread in Massachusetts health care facilities, according to a recently published MNA survey of more than 220 union and non-union nurses. More than 85 percent have been punched, spit on, groped, kicked or otherwise physically or verbally assaulted. Yet only 19 percent of nurses say their employer was supportive and tried to find solutions after they experienced violence, while 76 percent said existing workplace violence policies are not enforced.
A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that between 2012 and 2014 incidents of violence “nearly doubled for nurses and nurse assistants.” Violence against health care workers accounts for nearly as many injuries as in all other industries combined, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Nurses experience more non-fatal incidents of workplace violence than police or corrections officers.
Senate and House versions of the legislation were sent to their respective chambers, where they will be placed in appropriate committees for further review.