TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Joseph Coniglio which will require the establishment of violence prevention programs in health care facilities in order to protect workers from violence was signed into law by Governor Corzine today.
“Working in a health care setting can be dangerous,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, and a member of the Budget Panel. “Health care workers face threats from certain patients or those suffering from varying degrees of substance abuse, and are at ground zero of the gang wars which are devastating our urban communities in New Jersey. Through this law, we will be doing all we can to ensure health care workers are equipped with the knowledge they need to stay safe in the workplace.”
The new law, S-1761, known as the “Violence Prevention in Health Care Facilities Act,” will 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 will 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 law will 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 Statistics, the incidence of injury from nonfatal assaults on 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.
“Health care workers deal with so many dangers on a day-to-day basis, and we need to give them the information and support they need to avoid injury – or worse,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “By requiring hospitals to perform a facility-wide safety audit and take steps to avoid the unique risks facing each hospital, we will ensure health care workers’ safety needs are met. This law will go a long way towards protecting those who risk their lives to provide quality health care to New Jersey’s residents.”
The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate last month, and identical legislation was approved by the Assembly in June.