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Should OSHA Officially Address Workplace Violence?


By Barbara Braun, Associate Director, Department of Health Services Research

Those of us who work in health care and social assistance services are,  unfortunately, all too familiar with the risk and rates of violence in the hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, nursing care centers, social service facilities and other environments where we work. 

The rate of workplace violence against employees providing health care and social assistance services is substantially higher than private industry as a whole, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. The report also recommended that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) assess the need for rulemaking to address the hazard.

Considering a Standard
OSHA has now issued a Request for Information on whether to propose a standard to prevent workplace violence in health care and social assistance settings. The RFI seeks public comments on the extent and nature of workplace violence in the health care industry, as well as the effectiveness and feasibility of methods used to prevent such violence.

We encourage all health care professionals to take advantage of this opportunity for public comment and provide a voice in this important discussion.

As you know: Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Ally in Workplace Violence Prevention
OSHA continues to be an important partner for The Joint Commission. In fact, our alliance provided impetus for the recent launch for our online resource center, Workplace Violence Prevention Resources—dedicated to preventing workplace violence in health care settings. As you likely know: The resource center provides a broad range of resources for health care organizations and health professionals, and the general public. The resources are contributed by OSHA and a growing number of health care organizations and municipalities across the United States.

I hope you are planning or will plan to contribute. I also hope you have been following our ongoing blog posts and communications on workplace violence in health care.  Our blogging and conversation about it will continue. It’s too important not to.

As Ann Scott Blouin, executive vice president of customer relations at The Joint Commission recently put it: ‘Realizing that we’re all accountable for managing—ideally, preventing—instances of workplace violence from occurring is truly the first step. This collaboration may save our lives and those of our patients and colleagues.

This collaboration includes answering OSHA’s call and the opportunity provided to us to speak up about violence in our health care workplaces.

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