USW Fighting for Safer Health Care Workplaces

Assistant Legislative Director Roxanne Brown and progressive talk show host Leslie Marshall last week discussed Workers’ Memorial Day and the epidemic of workplace violence, particularly in the health care industry.

April 28 was Workers’ Memorial Day, a day to honor those workers who lost their lives on the job and reflect on how to make workplaces safer.

One of the industries with the highest rates of injury and workplace violence is health care.

Health care workers face daily risks from unstable patients, angry family members, drug seekers and more. These encounters can result in verbal abuse, broken bones, bruises, bite marks and sometimes even gunshot wounds.

“It runs the gamut why this is happening but the fact is, there is a very clear and consistent increase over the last decade in particular, and the startling thing is there are no federal policies to get this under control,” said Brown.

The USW is currently fighting for stricter federal regulations to help protect health care workers, said Brown. OSHA’s guidelines are good, but they’re voluntary, leaving many workers at the mercy of their employers.

Instead, she said, Congress should pass rules like those recently enacted on the state level in California, which mandates all acute care facilities develop and implement comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans.

Health care workers also need better training in recognizing and addressing potentially violent situations.

“You don’t need legislation to know, if you’re a hospital administrator, that this is a crisis,” said Brown.

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