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State agencies too violent for Lancman

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman presents a report detailing the failure of state agencies to implement workplace violence prevention programs. Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman

BY ANNA GUSTAFSON

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said last week that too many state agencies have not complied with New York’s recently implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Law despite data showing an increase in assaults against state employees.

Lancman last week released a report he authored by the state Subcommittee on Workplace Safety, which he chairs, that said public agencies throughout the state had not completed a workplace violence prevention program, as mandated by the 2007 law. Agencies had until the end of August 2009 to comply with the law, which included providing workplace violence training and a workplace violence program.

About 50 percent of the 93 agencies that responded to the survey said they had not provided workplace violence training and about 45 percent of state agencies did not provide a workplace violence program.

“As indicated in the survey results, a staggering number of employers have yet to complete the Workplace Violence Prevention programs as required by the law a year after the programs were due,” Lancman said. “These results are intolerable, especially as the rates of injuries caused by assaults are drastically increasing.”

New York has been plagued by acts of violence against public employees, Lancman said, and there was a 26.7 percent increase in workplace injuries from 2005-08 from assaults and other violent acts against state government employees in New York, according to numbers from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to a previously released report by Lancman, rates of workplace injuries in the state Office of Children and Family Services have spiked in recent years. Workers compensation indemnity claims caused by assault or other violent acts rose 42 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to state data.

A number of union officials said they were alarmed by the report’s findings. Public Employee Federation Vice President Pat Baker said his group “has been working diligently with agency managers to implement violence prevention programs.”

While Baker said many have been cooperative, he said his organization will continue to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor about sites that do not comply.

“The escalating violence in state institutions is not acceptable and is harmful to client, state employees and costly to taxpayers.”

George Boncoraglio, the CSEA Metropolitan Region president, urged state agencies to comply with the law.

“Our public employees provide vital services every day and their safety, as well as the safety of the public they serve, should be of paramount importance,” he said.

Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also emphasized the importance of state agencies implementing the law.

“These results are unacceptable and must be addressed immediately,” she said. “I look forward to continuing the subcommittee’s efforts to make sure workplace violence is reduced through mandatory workplace violence prevention programs.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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