California lawmakers are considering a bill (SB 1299) sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United to address workplace violence against healthcare workers.  The bill was prompted in large part by two recent attacks on nurses in Los Angeles-area hospitals, in which one nurse was repeatedly stabbed with a knife and another was stabbed in the ear with a pencil.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), would require the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal-OSHA) to develop and implement regulations requiring hospitals to establish plans to address and prevent workplace violence.  These workplace violence plans would have to include:

  • Procedures for investigating and responding to incidents of workplace violence;
  • Procedures for evaluating the sufficiency of staffing levels and hospital security, in light of security risks associated with particular units or shifts;
  • Education and training programs to help employees identify and respond to workplace violence;
  • Provisions setting forth the hospital’s duty to document and report incidents of violence to Cal-OSHA; and
  • Provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees who seek help from law enforcement.

The bill would also require Cal-OSHA to post a report on its website detailing incidents of workplace violence at hospitals and making recommendations on how to prevent such incidents. 

The bill is likely to face stiff opposition, as a similar provision was defeated in the California legislature last year.  If passed, however, the hospital workplace safety statute will create another extensive regulatory scheme to which California hospitals must adhere.  Health care employers outside of California should take note of this development, as California’s workplace safety statute could very well open the floodgates to similar legislation throughout the country.