2007 News

Workplace Violence Bill Fact Sheet

A Nurse is NOT a Punching Bag!

SB 1345 - An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and
Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence


The Problem
A hospital should be a haven where patients go to heal and nurses and other health care professionals provide care in a safe environment.  Unfortunately, hospitals are increasingly violent workplaces, both for employees and for patients.  Workplace violence against nurses and other health care workers, which can range from verbal and emotional abuse to physical assault and homicide, is not uncommon in hospitals and other health care settings. This violence can be perpetrated by patients, families, friends, visitors, and even co-workers.  The statistics are sobering:

  • 48 percent of all non-fatal assaults in the U.S. workplace are committed by health care patients.
  • Nurses and other personal care workers suffer violent assaults at a rate 12 times higher than other industries.2
  • In a 2004 survey of Massachusetts nurses, 50 percent  indicated they had been punched at least once in the last two years, and 25 percent -30 percent  were regularly pinched, scratched, spit on or had their hand/wrist twisted.3
  • Between May 2006 and May 2007, there were over 1,000 phone calls to 911 from inside Brockton Hospital.  That is over three emergency calls per day.

Bike all violence, workplace violence has long-lasting traumatic effects on its victims.  It always causes disruptions in the victim’s short and long term employment, and often permanently impairs the victim’s ability to return to work.  We are already experiencing a shortage of nurses willing to work in the current hospital climate, and violence is driving still more nurses from the bedside.  Workplace violence also makes quality patient care difficult to provide.

The Solution
Right now, the implementation of procedures to prevent workplace violence in hospitals is completely dependent on the administration of each individual facility.  Some hospitals are very aggressive in trying to prevent violence against nurses and other workers, while other hospitals are not. 

SB 1345 would require all health care facilities to take significant steps to prevent violence in their facilities.  SB 1345 would:

  • Require that health care employers perform annual risk assessments relative to factors which may put employees at risk of workplace assaults and homicides.
  • Direct these employers to develop written violence prevention plans and to implement programs to minimize the risks identified in the assessment.
  • Share all of this information with employees.
  • Direct the Commissioner of Labor to enforce these provisions.
  • Reclassify all public sector licensed health care professionals who have worked ten years or more and who are responsible for the care of prisoners, persons who are forensically involved, mentally ill, mentally challenged, and psychologically impaired persons in group 4 of the state’s contributory retirement system. 

 A Nurse is NOT a Punching Bag!

SB1345 - An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and
Implement Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence


Workplace Violence Risk Factors

  • Alcohol/Drug Abuse
  • History of Violent Behavior
  • Long Waiting Times
  • Overcrowded or uncomfortable waiting rooms
  • Inadequate staffing
  • No visible security presence
  • Unrestricted movement of general public throughout the facility
  • ncreased use of hospitals for holding individuals involved in the criminal-justice system

What Does A Strong Workplace Violence
Prevention Program Look Like:

  • Make it clear to workers that a safe work environment is just as important as the quality of care given to patients.
  • Work with employees to identify risks and create a plan to mitigate those risks.
  • Distribute the plan throughout the facility.
  • Provide training to employees that includes information on recognizing and responding to escalating behavior.
  • Encourage police participation and a police presence.
  • Establish counseling and debriefing for employees who experience violent incidents.
  • Support employees who press criminal charges.