Earlier this morning, Governor Beshear signed into law a bill that seeks to curb a disturbing trend in acts of violence against healthcare workers. The law adds requirements for healthcare facilities to create workplace violence prevention programs to better protect healthcare workers on the clock. These programs will vary based on the needs of that facility, which will be determined by an initial workplace safety assessment to identify the level and kinds of risks posed against its staff. Risk of workplace violence can vary based upon an innumerable list of factors including physical attributes of the facility (e.g., security systems and personnel), the specific unit of the healthcare worker, areas of the facility with uncontrolled access, and time of day – late night and early morning shifts tend to see larger spikes in incidences. Once the specific kinds and level of risk are identified, each facility will then be tasked with implementing a workplace safety plan to help ensure its workforce is reasonably safe from these threats and provides a plan that is built off representation of all different types of workers operating on the premises. Facilities are required to keep a running database of incidents from the last five years which helps determine the risk associated with working for and in that facility. Facilities within the Commonwealth will receive annual assessments of their safety plans by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The bi-partisan bill passed both the House and Senate without a single vote against.
What This Means for Healthcare Workers
The implementation of this law is a major step in keeping some of the most targeted members of our workforce safe. The bill itself recognizes a statistic claiming that healthcare workers are up to 12 times more likely to experience workplace violence than any other profession. This violence stems from a variety of reasons, such as grief and anger over their own or a loved one’s hospitalization, frustration while trying to receive medical attention from a reduced staff, and mental health factors. While violence towards healthcare workers has always been an issue, the problem has only been exacerbated in recent years, finding new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This legislation helps provide a level of safety for workers that had not existed previously in the field.
There will be a few additional responsibilities healthcare workers will undertake as a result of this bill’s passage. Workers will undergo a training session to cover the basics of the adopted safety plan annually and may be required more frequent training in places of higher risk. Workers will also be required to complete some form of basic protective skills competency test. Finally, healthcare workers will be trained in the violent acts reporting system adopted by the facility and will learn to handle the reporting duties to ensure the system operates effectively.
By January 1, 2024, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will unveil its guidelines for developing a workplace safety assessment, as well as examples of a full-fledged workplace safety plans and workplace safety standards facilities may choose to adopt to further prevent violence against healthcare workers. Facilities will then have an entire you to roll out and implement these safety plans before the cabinet begins auditing facilities for compliance with the law.
The passage of this legislation is a welcomed approach to keeping healthcare workers safe while providing life-saving services to our communities. The roll out of this law and effectiveness of the various safety plans being adopted are going to be interesting to watch. What works for one facility may not work for another and competing forms of safety planning may produce wildly different levels of success. Healthcare workers should keep this law in mind as the topic of healthcare safety changes and should seek legal advice if these situations arise for them.