Legislation Introduced to Reduce Violence Against Health Care and Social Service Workers
Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) has introduced legislation to curb rising rates of workplace violence facing health care and social service employees such as nurses, physicians, emergency responders, medical assistants, and social workers.
The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) is co-sponsored by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, as well as by 24 other Members of Congress. The bill directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a standard requiring health care and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from violent incidents in the workplace.
“Health care and social service workers face a disproportionate amount of violence at work, and the data shows that these incidents are on the rise,” said Congressman Courtney. “Safety experts, employees, and Members of Congress have been pressing OSHA to address this outsized risk of violence for years, but have seen no meaningful action. This legislation is the result of a five-year process to build the foundation for long overdue change to protect America’s caring professions, and would require OSHA to issue a Workplace Violence Prevention Standard, giving workers the security that their employers are implementing proven practices to reduce the risk of violence on the job. With the Committee’s announcement just yesterday of a hearing next week on protecting health care and social workers from workplace violence, we can be assured that this bill is finally poised to move, and not just sit on the shelf.”
“Workplace violence against health care and social service workers continues to threaten those who dedicate their lives to caring for others,” said Chairman Scott. “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 look forward to discussing this and other solutions at next week’s hearing on workplace safety.”
According to Congressman Courtney, incidents of violence against health care and social service workers is 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, he said.
In 2013, Courtney requested that the Government Accountability Office 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.
“The American Nurses Association, representing the nation’s 4 million registered nurses, is indebted to the members of Congress who remain steadfast in championing this critical legislation," said Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN – President, American Nurses Association." We believe in this bill because it underscores the urgency to address existing workplace cultures that discourage nurses from reporting for fear of retribution and to implement plans that prevent incidence of violence in the workplace. Safe work environments and quality care are not mutually exclusive, both must be considered in order to promote positive health outcomes for patients and communities. This bill is a step towards meaningful progress to prevent incidents of violence in all health care settings and we thank Rep. Courtney for introducing this legislation.”