Unfortunately, workplace violence is in the news every day.  OSHA is paying increasing attention to the workplace violence issue, particularly in the healthcare industry.  While there is no specific OSHA regulation addressing workplace violence, a recent decision supports OSHA’s use of the General Duty Clause in workplace violence cases in the healthcare industry.

In Secretary of Labor v. Integra Health Management, No 13-1124 (March 4, 2019), the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) upheld a violation of the General Duty Clause when it found an employer did not adequately address workplace violence hazards.  In that case, the company employed “service coordinators” to help its clients obtain medical care.  Health insurers send the clients to Integra after reviewing claim histories to identify individuals who are not receiving appropriate care.  In this case, a service coordinator was assigned to visit a client at his home and that service coordinator made notes in her report that the client made her “uncomfortable” and detailed his strange behavior.  On a following visit to the client, the service coordinator was stabbed by the client nine times and died.
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In the last two months, the healthcare industry has seen both federal and state efforts to further regulate healthcare worker safety. Stakeholders and other jurisdictions are keeping an eye on these developments, which could spread to other states, as well.

While the federal legislation is focused on reducing workplace violence at healthcare facilities, an initiative in California will decide what additional regulations should be imposed to remove surgical plume and limit the exposure of healthcare professionals to surgical smoke in the state’s operating rooms.
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work incident injuri formLast week, OSHA published its new “Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs,” which advises employers in the healthcare industry and other private sector industries to establish comprehensive internal safety and health programs. The OSHA bulletin also provides extensive guidelines and resources for creating such programs.

In releasing the updated recommendations, OSHA argues that employers adopting such programs could reduce injuries and illnesses and promote sustainability. To the extent that this new guidance creates new compliance burdens and risks (see below), healthcare is likely to be one industry in which OSHA focuses its efforts. After all, OSHA believes that “[m]ore workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other.”
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