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Health care employers must do more to protect staff from workplace violence

Nurses should not have to suffer broken bones and concussions to spur action against workplace violence. Unfortunately, at Arbour-HRI psychiatric hospital in Brookline, it took that level of violence for the federal government to investigate and levy a fine (“OSHA cites Brookline psychiatric hospital,” Metro, Feb. 9).

Arbour-HRI failed to protect employees from aggressive patients, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, leading to nurses and mental health workers being punched, hit, scratched, bitten, and hit with objects, including a wooden dresser drawer.

It does not have to be this way. We already know that health care workers are vulnerable. Serious violence is four times more common in health care than private industry on average, OSHA reports. Legislation filed last month by the Massachusetts Nurses Association would help prevent assaults at every hospital in the Commonwealth. The bill would require health care employers to perform annual risk assessments, implement programs to minimize violence, provide time off for assaulted workers to address legal issues, and regularly report assaults.


Hospitals should be a place for patients to heal and health care professionals to provide care in a safe environment. Legislative action would ensure that employers take the steps necessary to prevent violence.

Donna Kelly-Williams, president

Massachusetts Nurses Association

The writer is a registered nurse.