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AFT Resolutions

PREVENTING WORKPLACE VIOLENCE IN ALL HEALTHCARE SETTINGS

WHEREAS, workplace violence (WPV) in healthcare settings is a significant occupational hazard that threatens healthcare worker and patient safety and well-being and has caused death and serious injury; and

WHEREAS, workplace violence has been defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as “any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting”; and

WHEREAS, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare workers suffer injuries associated with workplace violence at almost twice the rate of all other private sector workers; and

WHEREAS, according to the BLS, home healthcare workers such as visiting nurses and social service workers have a rate of 15 work-related assaults per 10,000 workers per year, compared to a rate of two work-related assaults per 10,000 workers per year for all workers; and

WHEREAS, there currently is no consistent surveillance system for tracking the incidence of violence in healthcare settings across state and federal agencies, resulting in inconsistent measures of the extent and nature of the problem from various sources; and

WHEREAS, research indicates that work-related assaults and injuries associated with violence in healthcare facilities are routinely underreported. Healthcare workers are often discouraged from reporting assaults or threats of violence, and many healthcare employers and workers accept it as part of the job; and

WHEREAS, workplace violence leads to increased medical and stress-related disability claims, higher turnover, increased overtime usage, interruptions in continuity of care, and lower productivity, as well as greater legal liability for the employer; and

WHEREAS, violence has an enormous impact on the health and well-being of the family members of victims; and

WHEREAS, American Federation of Teachers healthcare members in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and other states have been tragically injured or killed in incidents that should have been prevented; and

WHEREAS, intervention research has shown that comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs can significantly reduce injuries and incidents; and

WHEREAS, the New York State Public Employees Federation led a successful campaign with a coalition of unions to gain state legislation mandating comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs in public sector agencies and workplaces; and

WHEREAS, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees led the successful drive for enactment of the Violence Prevention in Healthcare Facilities Act in New Jersey in 2008; and

WHEREAS, 17 states have taken the initiative to create or strengthen felony assault laws to criminalize assaults of healthcare workers in the line of duty (AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, VT, VA and WV); and

WHEREAS, legislation requiring employers to provide worker training and protections and/or studies of WPV is in place in 10 states (CA, CT, IL, ME, NJ, NY, OR, WA and WV); and

WHEREAS, bullying is a form of workplace violence that also has significant implications for the health and well-being of healthcare workers, patient safety, and the ability to retain healthcare workers; and

WHEREAS, there is currently no Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) WPV standard:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will push for enactment of a federal OSHA standard and other state and federal legislation that would:

  • Require healthcare employers to establish and maintain comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs that include a written program, record-keeping on work-related violence, risk evaluation and implementation of control measures, training, and union and worker involvement; and
  • Lobby for increased research on surveillance by facility type, on effective standardized WPV data collection, and on effective model intervention programs. This research will aid in the development of national policies and programs to prevent WPV and bullying; and
  • Direct the OSHA to promulgate a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard with the following elements:

    • Written employer workplace violence prevention programs that also address bullying and harassment specific to the risk factors and characteristics of the individual healthcare setting; and
    • Genuine worker and union involvement in the development of the program; and
    • Healthcare facility analysis to identify existing hazards and conditions, including the tracking of violent incidents and injury/illness; and
    • Hazard prevention and control: the identification and implementation of engineering; and
    • Administrative and work practice controls to prevent occupational injuries; and
    • Record-keeping including methods to ensure that violent incidents are reported without fear of reprisal or discrimination; and
    • Training of frontline workers and management in the prevention of workplace violence; and
    • Evaluation of efforts to prevent workplace violence incidents; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will take a strong position against all forms of bullying and promote anti-bullying education, policies and contractual programs in all healthcare settings; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support, in the absence of a federal OSHA standard, the development of national and/or state legislation that mandates comprehensive workplace violence programs for hospitals, healthcare facilities and other healthcare settings; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will assist local affiliates in advocating for effective workplace violence prevention programs by developing workplace violence prevention materials and regional conferences and workshops to train leaders and members; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, other professional organizations and experts to educate its leaders and members about the hazards of work-related violence, research outcomes and successful campaigns to end healthcare workplace violence.


(2012)