WE DID IT: Workplace Violence Standard Adopted!

On October 20, the Cal/OSHA Standard Board unanimously voted to adopt the first workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers in California!  Our hope is that this Standard will be used as a template at the national level. All of us are passionate about the work we do and the care we provide to patients, clients, and their families — but workplace safety is crucial, especially given our field of work.

In 2010, representatives from our SEIU 721 Nurse Alliance attended a rally to honor the memory of Dona Gross, a psychiatric technician at Napa State Mental Hospital, who was strangled to death by a patient while at work. This atrocity was the latest in a string of violent incidents which inspired the beginnings of a workplace safety movement which continues today. While we will always mourn Dona’s needless passing, we honor her memory with these new workplace violence prevention standards.

While focused effort under strong leadership underpinned this successful campaign, the true heroes in the battle for a safe work environment are all the nurses and the health care workers in this great state of California. We worked hard to get these new standards adopted and should feel proud of work!

It took a lot of energy and effort to make this victory possible. Sharing their personal accounts of attacks, threats, and harassment in the workplace, healthcare workers retold their stories before the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to bring attention to the urgent need for regulatory change.  These heart-breaking stories propelled the Cal/OSHA Standards Board to approve improvements in their regulations governing the management and operation of healthcare facilities throughout California.

This new Cal/OSHA Standard applies to most employers of nurses, health care workers, and the communities they serve in California. We fought to include all departments where there are healthcare workers in the final adopted language, however, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopted language that only covers specific healthcare facilities, including all DHS acute care hospitals and ambulatory clinics in Los Angeles County.

What is critical to remember, however, is that with this new regulation in place, Cal/OSHA is now prepared to implement workplace violence prevention measures throughout California and soon for the rest of the U.S.  Once again, the members of SEIU Local 721 are setting Labor standards for the rest of America to follow!

The men and women who shared their stories are to be applauded for motivating the Committee to consider the importance of this issue at a very personal level. For the last several years, SEIU 721, the SEIU California Nurse Alliance, and the SEIU California State Council have supported our campaign financially and by actively participating in our rallies and events. We are very grateful for all their support and encouragement. We want to thank you again for your participation over the years!