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The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration Standards Board’s approval of a workplace violence standard for health care workers is significant because it is the first of its kind and could be become the template for a similar standard in other states or on a national level, experts say.
In 1999, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration published voluntary health care employer guidelines that were updated in 2014, but federal OSHA does not have a specific standard like the one in California that regulates workplace violence.
However, the federal agency may be working to change this, issuing a request for information in December on whether to propose a standard to prevent workplace violence in health care and social assistance settings. A public meeting is scheduled to take place on the issue this month in Washington.
The health care industry has already shown a desire to adopt the requirements laid out in the early versions of the California regulation, said Nick Smith, practice leader, security risk consulting at Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. based in New York.
“Primarily, it’s been guided by OSHA under the general duty clause,” he said.
The federal agency increased its workplace violence inspections of health care employers from 11 in 2010 to 86 in 2014 and issued general duty clause citations in about 5% of cases, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggested OSHA consider additional action, including whether a standard is needed, in a March report.
While there is no federal standard designed to protect workers from violence, states such as Illinois, New York and New Jersey require employers to have a workplace violence prevention program, said David Quezada, Los Angeles-based vice president of loss control for workers compensation insurer Employers Holdings Inc.
The murder of Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross at the hands of a patient in October 2010 highlighted the danger health care workers routinely face in their jobs and has culminated in California adopting the first workplace violence prevention standard for health care workers in the United States.