California’s Senate Bill 1299, enacted in the fall of 2014, requires the State’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt standards requiring certain hospitals to implement a workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2016. On February 5, 2015, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the “Division”) issued a draft regulatory proposal that would require healthcare employers (including hospitals, clinics, drug-treatment facilities, home health care, and other healthcare operations) to develop workplace violence prevention plans specific to the hazards and corrective measures for each unit, service or operation of the employer. Covered employers could incorporate their workplace violence prevention plans into an existing injury and illness prevention program or maintain the plan as a separate document.
Specifically, the draft regulations would require that such plans include, among other things:
- The names and/or job titles of the persons responsible for implementing the plan;
- Procedures to ensure employees comply with the plan;
- Procedures for communicating with employees regarding workplace violence;
- Assessment procedures for the identification and evaluation of environmental risk and patient-specific workplace violence risk factors;
- Procedures for timely correction of workplace violence hazards;
- Procedures for post-incident response and investigation of workplace violence injuries; and
- Provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees for seeking help from local emergency services or law enforcement.
Covered employers would also be required to train their employees concerning workplace violence hazards identified in the employer’s facility, the corrective measures the employer has implemented, and any employee responsibilities imposed by the employer’s workplace violence prevention plan. Employers would be required to provide refresher training every 12 months.
Additionally, the draft proposal would require covered employers to keep records of violent incidents, and maintain those records for a minimum of five years. Moreover, acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and special hospitals would have to report any incidents that result in injuries, involve firearms or other dangerous weapons, or involve a threat to personnel to the Division within 24 hours. All other incidents of violence would have a 72-hour deadline for reporting.
Complicating these substantial requirements, the draft regulations also require covered employers to create procedures for the “active involvement” of employees – and their bargaining representatives – in the development, implementation and review of the plan as well as in the creation, review, and revision of training curriculum, materials, and sessions. This would likely require unionized employers to bargain with their employees’ unions over the development of the plan and the required training.
Putting aside significant issues such as the feasibility of the required risk assessment procedures, the draft regulations create several significant challenges for covered employers. For example, the organizational and financial costs associated first with the development of the workplace violence prevention plan and then with the plan’s implementation and the required training will be substantial. Also, the recordkeeping and reporting requirements imposed by the draft regulations are likely to be secondary concerns in the event of an actual workplace violence incident, but will require attention and resources in the immediate aftermath of such an event. Finally, the draft regulations provide no guidance as to how the Division will enforce their myriad requirements.
At this point, it is uncertain how closely the final regulations will resemble the draft proposal.