San Diego – In solidarity with labor unions representing millions of American workers, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH) and other local COSH organizations have endorsed petitions calling for a comprehensive federal standard to prevent workplace violence in the health care and social assistance sectors.
“With an issue like workplace violence, it’s easy to say, ‘Hey, how can you stop a person who wants to hurt somebody?’” said Jessica Martinez, acting executive director of National COSH. “But that’s just wrong and ignores documented best practices. If you address issues like adequate staffing and lines of communication, worksite security, proper training and safety protocols, there’s no question you can reduce the risks faced by health care and social service workers.”
Workplace violence is a problem across all sectors of the economy. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than two million workers each year report that they are victims of violent incidents on the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported more than 400 workplace homicides in 2014, making homicide the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.
Health care and social service workers are among those most at risk. Fifty-two percent of victims of workplace violence, according to the BLS, are health care and social service workers.
On July 12, a coalition of unions filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Labor, calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a “comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard to protect all workers in healthcare and social service settings.” The coalition of labor unions includes the AFL-CIO; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Government Employees; Communications Workers of America; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Service Employees International Union; the United Steelworkers and National Nurses United.
“Like other on-the-job hazards, workplace violence can be prevented – in health care, social services and in other sectors” said National COSH Senior Organizer Peter Dooley. “To be effective, a workplace violence prevention standard must be part of a comprehensive, systems approach to workplace safety, with workers involved in every step of the process. That includes evaluating risks, assessing remedies, reporting incidents without fear of retaliation, and design of rigorous training.”
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels, National COSH and local COSH groups point to the proven effectiveness of prevention programs. “A comprehensive workplace violence prevention program,” the letter states, “reduced rates of assault at Veterans Health Administration hospitals between 2004 and 2009.” The letter also notes that the states of California and Minnesota have recently passed legislation requiring health care employers to implement workplace violence prevention programs.
In addition to National COSH, local groups signing on to yesterday’s letter include:
- Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health (ConnectiCOSH)
- Fe y Justicia Worker Center (Houston COSH)
- Maine Labor Group on Health
- Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH)
- Mid-State Education and Service Foundation
- New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NHCOSH)
- New Jersey Work Environment Council (NJWEC)
- New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)
- NorthEast New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NENYCOSH)
- Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (RICOSH)
- South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
- Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH)
- Western Massachusetts Coalition for Workplace Safety and Health (WesternMassCOSH)
- Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH)
Yesterday’s letter to Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary Michaels is available here.
* * *
National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.