A new bill, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, would require hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, mental health providers, and jails to develop a workplace safety plan to protect their workers from violence they experience at the hands of patients — a surprisingly common phenomenon. The bill would also require employers to record and investigate all complaints of violence, and prohibits retaliation against employees who call 911.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), would turn into law current guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the Department of Labor. A hospital’s violence prevention plan could involve hiring more security guards, installing surveillance cameras, and training staff in how to respond to violent incidents.

The rule covers all employees, whether hired directly by a hospital or employed as subcontractors.

“We expect health care and social service employees to care for us in our times of need, but we know that each year, these men and women are faced with rising rates of violence, often from patients and their families,” said Courtney. “This legislation compels OSHA to do what employees, safety experts, and Members of Congress have been calling for years – create an enforceable standard to ensure that employers are taking these risks seriously, and creating safe workplaces that their employees deserve.”  

“Workplace violence against health care and social service workers continues to affect those who dedicate their lives to caring for others,” said Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. “This bill helps address this growing problem by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to set an enforceable standard that will protect workers from preventable acts of workplace violence. I am grateful to Rep. Courtney for his leadership on this bill and will work to give this legislation the urgent attention that it deserves.”