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Bill proposes OSHA standards for workplace violence

New Jersey hospital workers know how unsafe their job environment can be. One overlooked threat is workplace violence. For example, there have been many cases of psychiatric nurses being attacked by patients. Assault can lead to traumatic brain injuries, which in turn can result in permanent or lingering issues like speech problems and continual headaches.

In the effort to keep hospital employees safe, a Connecticut congressman is sponsoring a bill that would require a workplace violence prevention plan from all health care and social service employers. At the same time, these plans would have to meet OSHA standards.

OSHA currently has voluntary standards for hospitals and offers an online tool kit, but those advocating the bill say that this is not enough because it has led many hospitals in the U.S. to be only reactive instead of protective. The requirements could include design standards. For instance, nurse stations may be required to have glass partitions. Staffing standards may also be considered, such as standards for the use of security guards.

The Workforce Protections Subcommittee held a hearing for the bill in late February 2019. Advocates brought together statistics to support the bill, including data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows how health care employees are five times more likely to be injured than other employees.

Those who have been injured on the job through no fault of their own may be able to take advantage of the workers' compensation program. This can reimburse for medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages. Since filing a claim may be complicated, it may be helpful to retain a lawyer. No one's negligence has to be proven, but those who file will waive their right to sue their employer. As a last resort, a victim may need to appeal.

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