A new California rule requires hospitals and other health entities to institute violence prevention protocols to protect employees from abuse, reports Kaiser Health News.

The state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved the rule in October (PDF) and it could take effect as soon as January.

The new regulation applies to private health care facilities in California such as skilled nursing and intermedia care facilities and requires them to perform “site-specific violence assessments and include workers’ concerns and views in developing action plans,” according to a report in Fierce Healthcare.

The KHN article says healthcare workers are at risk for workplace assault, possibly due to cuts in mental health services and an increase in senior patients who have potentially violent dementia. Research shows that in 2013, private-sector hospital workers were five times more likely to take time off from work because of an injury caused by violence than a typical private sector worker. Under the new law, hospitals would not be responsible for random acts of violence such as mass shootings but could be cited by OSHA if they don’t follow protocols.

The rule does not directly apply to senior living communities, but the report says the regulation is a model that is likely to spread to other states.

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