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    January 26, 2018

    California Leads the Way in Workplace Safety Standards

    In April of 2017, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health enacted the nation’s first workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers.

    In recent years, federal OSHA has paid close attention to assaults by patients and other violent acts in the industry.

    “It’s not like workplace violence is a new thing,” says Martin King who works with Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. in Oakland, California. “It’s always been there. It’s just becoming more visible.”

    And according to Mark Walls of the Safety National Casualty Corp, “This is a growing problem, a very difficult-to-manage problem.”

    Federal OSHA might be paying close attention, but California is taking action. It continues to lead the way in addressing the problem of workplace violence.

    The standard from 2017 requires health care employers to: create a violence prevention plan; maintain records of violent incidents; and provide workplace violence training.

    The standard covers hospitals, home-based hospice, emergency medical services, emergency medical transport, drug treatment programs, and outpatient medical services to the incarcerated in correctional and detention settings.

    Less than a year later, Cal/OSHA has already drafted an update to the standard to include provisions that would protect workers of all industries—not just healthcare.

    Workplace violence is a lot more common than most people realize. According to an article in Business Insurance, it’s the number one cause of death for women in the workplace—and number three overall.

    The updated draft includes requirements for responding to acts of violence, working with law enforcement, and reporting incidents.

    Many of the workplace violence issues from the healthcare industry have to do with patients that have mental and/or behavioral health issues. But there’s more to it than just that.

    “Another thing that causes a lot of problems is the growing drug problem in the United States,” says Rich Reynolds, a worker’ compensation manager in Renton, Washington.

    California is addressing that one, too.

    The state is drafting workplace safety rules for the burgeoning marijuana industry. There are a number of areas expected to be addressed in the new drug rules. Second-hand smoke, fire hazards, and an increased risk in robberies and other violent crimes are among them.

    “California is taking on a strong stance,” said Alka Ramchandani, a senior associate and employment attorney in San Francisco.

    Reynolds agrees. “California, historically from an OSHA perspective, tends to be ahead of everyone else and much more stringent on data reporting and information being shared. But I think you will see that spread across the entire nation. I think there’s going to be more awareness at the federal level.”

    Experts say that, if approved, these new standards would put California way ahead of the requirements set forth by federal OSHA.

    California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has several advisory meetings scheduled over the next few weeks to collect comments on the proposed standards mentioned above.