Nearly 6 months ago, the group National Nurses United (NNU) filed a petition with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over concerns of violence in the workplace. Workers across multiple industries have seen a rise in incidents of workplace violence. In response, OSHA has announced they will begin investigating and proposing new rules for companies to reduce workplace violence.
Among the incidents that mobilized the NNU was the death of member Cynthia Palomata, R.N., in 2010. Palomata was a nurse in California's Contra Costa County Jail. Palomata was reportedly responding to an inmate suffering a seizure. However, the inmate was allegedly faking the injury, and struck Palomata in the head. The veteran nurse eventually died from her injuries.
The NNU got comprehensive legislation passed in California, which now requires all hospitals to have a workplace violence prevention plan. The group then took their fight nationwide, petitioning OSHA for a workplace violence prevention standard. Included in the petition are demands for a thorough assessment of risk factors, interactive training, post-incident response, and prohibitions on retaliation against employees reporting violent incidents.
“Workplace violence is absolutely preventable,” said Bonnie Castillo, NNU Director of Health and Safety. “We cannot stand by while one more nurse or healthcare worker is injured, or killed on the job.”
During a day-long hearing, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels announced the group would begin the process of investigation and developing new rules to address the problem. Other unions and health care groups joined in support of new workplace safety rules, including the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, and Service Employees.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) workers in the healthcare field are five times more likely to be victims of workplace violence than other industries. Healthcare worker violence accounts for almost as many serious injuries as all other industries combined. In 2011, healthcare workers reported more than 80,000 incidents of workplace violence.
“Our nurses came to D.C. today to speak out on the importance of passing an enforceable workplace violence prevention standard,” said Castillo. “We are thrilled to know OSHA granted NNU's petition for that standard to begin taking shape. Such regulations are vital to protecting nurses and other healthcare workers, as well as their patients, from the epidemic of workplace violence across the U.S.”
The announcement comes at the end of Dr. Michaels' service with OSHA. The incoming administration could potentially end the investigation and reverse the decision to create new regulations and standards against workplace violence. If that happens, healthcare workers will continue to fight for safety and security in the workplace.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of violence in the workplace, it is important to speak out to help prevent future abuse. If a patient, coworker, or supervisor has abused you, they may be doing the same thing to others. Speak with an experienced workplace violence attorney who understands your rights and will fight to protect you and your career. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.