News & Events

Safety for Social Workers Signed into Law

March 13, 2013

On February 15, 2013, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation to promote safety for social workers and other human service workers in the workplace. The legislation was in response to a four-year advocacy campaign of the National Association of Social Workers Safety Task Force.

The Safety Task Force was convened in 2008 after the death of a social worker on a home visit. Members of the task force included representatives from the NASW, area schools of social work, human service employers, unions and state agency representatives.

"With this new law, Massachusetts is now a national leader in workplace violence prevention legislation for social work," stated Associate Professor Suzanne Sankar, Schoool of Social Work Assistant Dean for Student affairs and member of the statewide NASW Safety Task Force. 

The new law, entitled An Act to Promote Public Health Through Workplace Safety for Social Work requires that all agencies that receive funding or certification from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services must have workplace violence prevention programs and crisis response plans in place.

Text of Safety Legislation:

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services shall promulgate regulations within six months of the effective date of this act to ensure that all programs providing direct services to clients and operated by or licensed, certified, or funded by a department or division of the executive office of health and human services ("programs") have a workplace violence prevention and crisis response plan updated at least annually for social workers, human services workers, volunteers, and all other employees. Each such program shall provide a copy of the current plan to any employee of the program who requests it.Workplace violence prevention and crisis response plans may include: (a) establishment of a system for centrally recording all incidents of workplace violence or threats of workplace violence against social workers, human services workers, volunteers, and all other employees providing direct services; (b) preparation of a written violence prevention and crisis response plan that includes measures the program intends to take to respond to any incident of workplace violence against social workers, human services workers, volunteers, and all other employees providing direct services; (c) providing each such worker with a copy of the violence prevention and crisis response plan; (d) implementing training to educate social workers, human services workers, volunteers, and all other employees providing direct services about workplace violence and ways to reduce risks; and (e) developing and maintaining a violence prevention and response team or committee to monitor ongoing compliance with the violence prevention and crisis response plan and to assist any social workers, human services workers, volunteers, and all other employees providing direct services who may be victimized by or threatened with workplace violence. Programs that do not have training in place shall require their employees to enroll in training to be developed and offered by the executive office of health and human services.  

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