Healthcare Facilities: It’s Time to Begin Implementing the Workplace Violence Prevention Act

By Mark Zeidman, Attorney/Shareholder

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed into law SB 240, the Workplace Violence Prevention Act. The Act, which aligns with the U.S. House of Representatives’ bill passed in 2021 and aims to create a workplace violence prevention standard across the U.S., was spurred on by the steady increase of workplace violence incidents involving healthcare workers over the past few years.

Beginning September 1, 2023, the Act requires covered healthcare facilities – from licensed hospitals to nursing facilities to free standing emergency medical centers – to adopt, implement, and enforce a written workplace violence prevention policy and a written workplace violence prevention plan. While the Act goes into effect this September, covered healthcare facilities will be required to adopt workplace violence prevention plans by September 1, 2024.

What’s Required of Healthcare Facilities

  • “Facilities” are defined as home licensed hospitals and nursing facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, healthcare service providers, free standing emergency medical centers, and licensed mental hospitals. Facilities must implement and inform employees about the workplace violence plan and policies.
  • These facilities must create a Workplace Violence Prevention Committee to develop the workplace violence prevention plan. The Committee must include a registered nurse who provides direct care, a licensed physician, and a security services employee. A facility is not required to have a physician on the Committee if there is not a physician on staff. The structure of these Committees is intended to give nurses a more active role in helping prevent workplace violence.
  • Facilities are also required to have annual workplace violence prevention training. These trainings should educate employees on how to identify early warning signs and behavioral indicators of workplace violence.

Further Considerations

  • Healthcare providers and employees should be encouraged to provide confidential information about incidents of workplace violence to the committee.
  • In the event of a workplace violence incident, facilities should establish post-incident services.
  • If a facility discovers that a patient has a past history of violence, it must adjust employee assignments to protect the provider who had the workplace violence encounter with the specific patient.
  • Individuals who report incidents of workplace violence are protected from retaliation, but there is no express remedy for employees who experience retaliation for complaining or providing information about workplace violence.
  • Although the Act does not establish monetary penalties, a violation could impact a facility’s licensure.

Take Action

Begin the process as soon as possible. Facilities will need time to build a committee to develop a workplace violence prevention plan. If a workplace violence prevention plan is already in place, the committee should evaluate the existing plan to ensure it is compliant with the Act.

  • Policies should be clear about prohibited actions or threats that will be considered workplace violence. By setting clear expectations, employers can create safer working conditions for their employees, and increase morale.
  • Employers should mandate reporting workplace violence. In response to workplace violence incidents, employers should encourage employees to utilize employee assistance Facilities should have holistic response teams that include security, HR, legal, management, and psychological consultants.
  • It is crucial to inform employees about the workplace violence prevention plan, policies, and procedures to create safe working conditions for healthcare workers.

Along with the Workplace Violence Prevention Act, the Texas Legislature recently passed H.B. 915, the Reporting Workplace Violence Act, that requires employers to “post a notice to employees of the contact information for reporting instances of violence or suspicious activity to the proper authorities, and inform employees of the right to make an anonymous report.” Both SB 240 and HB 915 have broad bipartisan support and are coming on the heels of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) announcement they would begin the rulemaking process for violence in the healthcare setting.