By Sands, David R.
The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Merida Rodriguez, an aide at Bronx Municipal Hospital in New York City, lost her baby as she tried to play the peacemaker.
Attempting to break up a fight between two patients in November 1994, Mrs. Rodriguez was struck on her side with a chair and suffered a miscarriage of her unborn son. Co-workers were too far away to lend help.
With workers like Mrs. Rodriguez in mind, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday released its first "guidelines" for preventing workplace violence, focusing on 8 million workers in health care and social services.
"I was quite shocked when I saw the numbers on the extent of deaths and assaults in these industries," Labor Secretary Robert Reich said yesterday. "This is not a matter of blaming clients, patients or employers. Our goal is to prevent these kinds of incidents through common-sense steps taken without huge costs."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the incidence of workplace violence among private employers in 1994 was three cases per 10,000 workers. But the rate jumped to 38 cases per 10,000 workers for nursing and personal care facilities and 47 cases per 10,000 workers in the residential care industry.
Homicide is now the No. 2 cause of death in the American workplace, after vehicle accidents, and nearly two-thirds of nonfatal assaults occur in the fast-growing service industries, including nursing homes, hospitals and halfway houses.
"I've been pinched, poked, bitten, jabbed with a fork, slapped, spat on, stomped, raked across the chest with fingernails, seen divots of hair yanked out," said Matthew Schultz, who works for a private, nonprofit agency in Rochester, N. …