State authorities responded to demands from healthcare workers for new rules that will protect them from violent attacks on the job, with the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopting a worker petition that will make California’s workplace safety standards for health care settings the strongest in the nation. After numerous attempts were denied in the 1990s, this victory comes at a much needed time and will redefine what it takes to have a safe and secure workplace in this day.
On Thursday, June 19, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board accepted the workers’ California Safe Care Standard’s Petition No. 538. The petition approval means California will move forward to create an enforceable, comprehensive workplace violence prevention regulation to protect all classes of workers in all healthcare settings.
The action came after healthcare workers brought their campaign for a Safe Care Standard to a hearing of the rule-making body for Cal/OSHA, the state agency charged with overseeing workplace safety. Dozens testified about the violence they’ve experienced on the job and the culture of fear that pervades health care workplaces because employers are not required to have plans in place to prevent violence. Among those who shared their stories were SEIU 721 members from Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where the Easter stabbings occurred, and Napa State Hospital, where a worker was killed in 2010.
Healthcare workers face extremely high levels of violence on the job, including physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal assaults. According to Cal/OSHA, nearly 5,000 incidents of workplace violence in healthcare settings were reported in California from 2010-2012. Many more go unreported.
The federal worker safety agency OSHA has identified healthcare jobs as among the highest risk occupations for workplace violence. The new standard means Cal/OSHA, California’s agency charged with workplace safety, will finally have the authority it needs to require employers to take preventive measures to keep workers safe.
With the support of the 2.1 million-member International Union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU Nurse Alliance of California petitioned Cal/OSHA in February to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers. SEIU, which represents Registered Nurses and other healthcare workers across the state, launched the California Safe Care Standard campaign in 2013 in response to the pandemic of violence that healthcare workers face on the job.