Union Pushes Legislation to Prevent Workplace Violence

Recent incidences of workplace violence have sparked a worker's union to press New York State lawmakers to pass a Worksite Security Act in the state legislature.

The union, the Civil Service Employee Association (CSEA), has worked on building momentum for the legislation as more than 700 CSEA safety and health activists prepare to receive training on security measures at the union's statewide Safety and Health Conference in Lake Placid at the end of the month.

"Every day, too many workers are unnecessarily put in harm's way," said CSEA president Danny Donohue. "New York has the opportunity to lead the nation by making the Worksite Security Act the law. It will reduce risks and protect people."

Legislation Previously Denied

Attempts to pass state legislation addressing workplace violence concerns have been denied before as New York Gov. George Pataki vetoed a bill that had been reportedly approved by both houses of the state legislature due to "technical flaws."

CSEA said they are in the process of working with Sen. Nick Spano and Assemblywoman Susan John to address the bill's errors. Spano said the passage of this bill would reduce workplace violence.

"This bill would require employers to evaluate the potential risks that exist within their workplaces, and implement programs to prevent violence," he said. "These procedures will ensure that employees are working in a safe environment a right of every employee."

The legislation would require public employers with more than 20 employees to assess risk and develop a plan of action to prevent potential workplace violence. The bill would also establish a complaint procedure for workers to call attention to the potential for violence.

CSEA has been at the forefront of securing public worksites since the murder of four CSEA-represented social service workers in Watkins Glen in 1992. Since the tragedy, CSEA worked with municipalities to assess the risks in their public buildings and worksites and develop appropriate, cost-effective measures to protect employees and the public.

Factors Common in Workplace Violence

The need for baseline state statewide standards still exists, as many people are under the assumption that workplace violence is random and unpredictable, says CSEA.

There are a number of common factors that increase a worker's risk of violence. They include:

  • Low staffing levels
  • Working alone
  • Working late at night or early in the morning
  • Working with money or prescription drugs
  • Long waits for services by customers, clients or patients, and lack of available services
  • Employees who work in homes or in the community

"Worksite security is a CSEA priority and we will not rest until we achieve standards that ensure that people can feel safe in their worksites," Donahue said. 'Injuries and deaths related to workplace violence should not be tolerated any more than any other kinds of on-the-job death and injury."

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