TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Joseph Coniglio which would require the establishment of violence prevention programs in health care facilities in order to protect workers from violence was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“Often, health care workers find themselves in dangerous situations, simply for doing their medical duty,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, and a member of the Budget Panel. “They often find themselves treating patients with varying levels of dementia or psychosis, or are thrust into the middle of conflict when providing care for violent criminals. This bill would ensure that health care facilities are prepared to handle threats and violence from patients directed at health care workers.”
The bill, S-1761, known as the “Violence Prevention in Health Care Facilities Act,” would direct health care facilities in New Jersey, including general and specialty hospitals, nursing homes, State and county psychiatric hospitals and State developmental centers, to establish a plan to combat physical violence or credible threats of violence against employees. The plan would identify workplace risks and include staffing levels, adequate security staffing, consideration of local crime rates in areas surrounding the facility, and reports of violence at the facility. The bill would also require facilities to establish annual violence prevention training, to familiarize workers with the facility’s violence prevention plan and goals, and prepare them to respond to violent acts or threats accordingly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, the incidence of injury from nonfatal assaults of health service workers is significantly higher than that of other workers. Incidents of violence in health care settings may be higher still, but may not be reported, due to inadequate reporting mechanisms, or fear of reprisal.
“New Jersey’s dedicated health care workers need to have a level of protection from violence in the workplace,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen, a member of the Budget panel. “These folks willingly put their safety at risk to care for the health needs of patients who can turn violent at the drop of a hat. Health care facilities need to step up to ensure that their employees have a prepared response to, and adequate protection from, workplace violence.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee last year, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Identical legislation was approved by the Assembly in June.