The House of Representatives passed legislation to require hospitals and other healthcare employers to take specific steps to prevent workplace violence against staff and patients.

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) legislation directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue new standards requiring health care 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.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., introduced the bill earlier this year. “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. For years, our partners and I have worked together to advance this bill in order to finally take steps curb the national epidemic of workplace violence and on-the-job assaults in the health care industry. From the Connecticut Nurses Association, to National Nurses United to the health care professionals like at AFT Connecticut, and many more, our partners know all too well the severity, frequency, and devastating impact of workplace violence, and they’ve been integral in pushing this effort across the finish line. H.R. 1309 was written and introduced on their behalf, and it’s thanks to them that we’re celebrating its passage in the House today.

“Our diverse coalition has worked together and across the aisle towards this vote, and all the while more devastating stories of on-the-job assaults from across the country have continued to come in. This is a national epidemic, and it’s ongoing. Passage of my bill in the House today is an important step forward in this effort to curb workplace violence, but it’s not the last step. I’m calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow his colleagues to debate and vote on H.R. 1309’s Senate companion, S. 851, and to not allow this critical bill to be added to the Senate’s ever-growing backlog of House-passed legislation.”

According to the legislation, 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. 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.

According to the legislation, 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.