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 approved by the Senate today by a vote of 38-0, receiving final legislative approval.
“A hospital or other health care facility can be an extraordinarily dangerous work environment,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, and a member of the Budget Panel. “Staffers provide care for patients suffering from dementia or delirium, as well as those with substance abuse problems or violent tendencies. Health care workers must be trained in working with violent individuals, and taught the appropriate skills to avoid becoming a target for violence.”
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.
“When dealing with a potentially violent or mentally-disturbed patient, health care employees need to follow best practices to ensure their own safety,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “Health care facilities need to develop plans to combat workplace violence and guarantee adequate safety standards for their workers. This bill would set the groundwork for the sort of system-wide change we need to protect health care workers from becoming the victims of workplace violence.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee earlier in the month. Identical legislation was approved by the Assembly in June. It now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.