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Protect Health Care Workers: End Workplace Violence

Workplace Safety: A Nationwide Movement

Just like anyone else, health care workers deserve a safe place to work.  Currently, health care workers are one of the most assaulted workers in the nation—this is unacceptable. Many states around the country are taking measure to protect their health care workers from the unique dangers of the health care workplace. Citing multiple violent incidents at their own facilities, 1199SEIU members in Maryland are joining what has become an important movement for health care workers throughout the nation: curbing workplace violence.

Health Care Workers: Most Attacked

Between 2003 and 2007, assaults on health care and social assistance workers represented a majority of workplace assaults in the nation.[1] Furthermore, “the most common victims of assaults in 2007 were nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, with 15.7 percent of all assaults by persons in any industry occurring to workers in this occupational group.”[2] Based on this data and the anticipated increase in patient volume at our hospitals and nursing homes due to health care reform, health care workers face an increasingly unsafe workplace.

Severity

The severity of the attacks is also worrisome.  In 2007 alone, over 9,000 health care and social assistance workers needed a median of four leave days to heal and recover from the assaults.[3]  The consequences of workplace violence have real ramifications for the health and well-being of health care workers as well as health care delivery. Assaults may lead to short staffing and/or a drop in quality of delivery as health care administrators scramble for replacements for injured workers.

Legislative Solutions: Curbing Workplace Violence

According to the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), eleven states have already passed legislation related to workplace violence for health care professionals.  While the laws vary in strength and enforcement, their enactment is confirmation that workplace safety in the health care industry is a priority for a growing number of states.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration has completed numerous studies on the risk factors that contribute to workplace violence in health care facilities.  Here is a list of the most relevant factors:[4]

  • Lack of staff training on safety
  • Solo work with no assistance or backup
  • Staffing levels
  • Lack of facility-wide workplace violence policies
  • Poorly lit parking areas

Moving Forward

With almost a million enrollees in Maryland’s Medicaid program, our health care system will experience a level of strain that is unprecedented as health care reform takes form in the next few years.  Maryland’s health care workers are up to the task.  At no other time has it been more important to ensure that health care workers are safe: research has shown that workplace violence affects productivity, moral, and longevity.  Health care professionals work hard to keep us healthy; we can’t afford to let them down.

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