While emphasizing its support for violence prevention programs to protect healthcare workers, one of the nation’s leading occupational health groups says it does not support promulgation of a new standard by OSHA as currently outlined, Hospital Employee Health has learned.

The Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) favors OSHA enforcement of workplace violence (WPV) programs through OSHA’s general duty clause. AOHP also supports accrediting organizations, such as The Joint Commission (TJC), continuing to assess violence prevention programs through surveys.

“AOHP understands OSHA pursing a proposed WPV standard,” the association told HEH. “However, AOHP had some concern about the proposed standard, and shared these in the Request for Information earlier this year. Due to the difficult nature of developing a comprehensive WPV standard, AOHP feels at the present time that OSHA’s general duty clause enables WPV enforcement.”

AOHP emphasized that it has been concerned about the issue and supports programs to prevent violent threats in healthcare.

“In [our] written comments, AOHP expressed concern that the proposed standard would not address all types and all healthcare settings where WPV could occur if the standard were to move forward. AOHP would like to see these areas addressed as well,” the association stated.

AOHP also underscored that the TJC survey process addresses WPV in its approximately 21,000 accredited healthcare organizations.

“Although TJC does not have a specific WPV prevention standard, TJC has recognized the significance of this issue for all individuals involved in healthcare and has taken action to increase the safety of patients, staff, and visitors,” the AOHP told HEH. “The Environment of Care standard requires a safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors, and requires a safety assessment that includes the identification of facility risks. The organization is to create applicable policies, implement the security program, assess for effectiveness, and adjust the strategy if needed.”

Likewise, any worker safety requirements of another controlling authority, like a state entity, must be followed, the AOHP noted.

“The [TJC] survey process would evaluate the assessment process and, through tracer activities, validate implementation in accordance with the established policy,” the AOHP said. “A review of the safety assessment is required at least annually to identify goals and objectives, and to recognize changes that have occurred in the environment. Workplace violence is also often addressed through TJC Emergency Preparedness standard with the use of the Hazard Vulnerability Analysis process.”

Other AOHP positions in its 2017-2019 position paper1 include plans to collaborate with NIOSH on two initiatives that directly affect the health and safety of healthcare workers. One is the Total Worker Health initiative, which is defined as “policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.” The other is the NORA Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector Council, which scientifically addresses healthcare hazards and transfers research findings to practice.

“[The] documents and results from these initiatives will continue to be utilized by AOHP and its members to create a safe working environment for staff, reduce injuries, and ultimately benefit the patients entrusted to HCWs for care,” the association stated.

AOHP supports efforts to ensure a safer healthcare environment for both the patient and the employee, including utilizing lift/assist devices as the primary method for the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, the paper states.

“More than 40 years of instructing HCWs on proper body mechanics has done little to impact injury statistics,” the AOHP said in the policy paper. “Back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders related to patient handling are the leading cause of workplace disability for nurses and other direct patient care providers.”

For patient transfers, lifts, and repositioning, mechanical equipment must be provided by the facility and used by the caregivers.

“AOHP advocates for regulations, legislation, education, training, research, and prevention activities as related to safer patient handling activities and methodologies,” the association stated. “AOHP will work to influence both state and national legislation as it relates to safe patient handling.”

REFERENCE

  1. AOHP. AOHP 2017-2019 Public Policy Statement. June 2017: http://bit.ly/2s5vsQl.