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New legislation is aimed at preventing violence against healthcare workers

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New legislation in the state senate is aimed at reducing violence against health care workers.

Health care workers are nearly five times as likely to experience injuries from workplace violence than the average U.S. worker, that’s according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Katie Scott is with the Michigan Nurses Association. She says there is an epidemic of violence against healthcare workers.

“I have been punched. I have been spit upon. I have been threatened with gun and knife violence when I leave work. So figuring out how to address all of those things with help from the employer is really important and I’m very excited about the legislation.”

Democratic State Senator Jeff Irwin introduced the measure. He said hospitals don’t usually report violent incidents against staff and prosecutors have been reluctant to charge people who assault healthcare workers.

“They are often folks who are having the worst day of their lives so they can lose control for all sorts of reasons. As a result the normal criminal justice process isn’t really working in this area.”

Irwin said other legislative attempts to address violence have tried to ramp up punishments against people who attack health care workers.

He said he believes stricter punishments may increase the underreporting of incidents rather than preventing violence.

“What we’re trying to do with this bill is address the issue from more of a prevention standpoint. We’re doing that by requiring workplace violence prevention plans in consultation with their employees.”

The bill would require health departments develop workplace violence prevention plans with employees which would include training for staff about how to de escalate violent situations.

Health departments will also need to maintain a record of violent acts against healthcare workers.

Irwin said the legislation has bipartisan support.