The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), which passed the House of Representatives Thursday, would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue new standards requiring healthcare and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from violent incidents and assaults at work.
The bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and 226 other Members of Congress. The House voted to pass H.R. 1309 on a bipartisan basis by a margin of 251-158.
“Workplace assaults against nurses, health care professionals, and social service workers occur more often than in any other profession,” said Congressman Courtney. “These are some of the same people we depend on to take care of us when we need it most, and they shouldn’t have to fear for their own lives while they’re at work trying to save ours.”
“Most acts of workplace violence in health care facilities are foreseeable and preventable by implementing workplace violence prevention plans. Although OSHA and the Joint Commission have issued authoritative guidance, voluntary efforts alone are not enough to ensure the safety of these workers,” said Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03).
Incidents of violence against health care and social service workers are on the rise. A 2016 GAO study reported that rates of violence against health care workers are up to 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce, and 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults in 2016 occurred in the health care and social assistance sectors. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a sharp increase in serious injuries as a result of workplace violence among health care workers last year. Front line employees in these settings interact with a range of patients, clients, and their families, often with little training or direction for how to prevent or handle interactions that become violent. The Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care and Social Services Act would ensure that health care and social service workplaces adopt proven prevention techniques and are prepared to respond in the tragic event of a violent incident.
In 2013, Courtney requested that the GAO study the trends in healthcare workplace violence and identify options for OSHA to curtail it, and in 2016 he and other members asked OSHA to develop a workplace safety standard to protect health care workers from this rising violence. In recent years, OSHA agreed to undergo rulemaking on health care workplace violence, but action has stalled under the Trump Administration. In the absence of voluntary action from OSHA, this legislation is necessary to ensure that nurses, doctors, medical assistants, emergency personnel, and social service workers are not subjected to needless preventable acts of violence on the job.