Support grows for bill seeking OSHA standard on preventing workplace violence in health care facilities
Washington — Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) said he is “grateful” for the increased support for his Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), the subject of a Feb. 27 hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee.
The legislation calls on OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers in the health care and social services industries to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans to protect employees such as nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders and other caregivers. Since being introduced in the House on Nov. 16, the bill has picked up an additional 16 co-sponsors for a total of 42.
In a Feb. 21 press release, Courtney said he is pleased the committee had the hearing, “a sign that this bill is finally poised to move and not sit on the shelf.”
The rate of violence against health care workers is up to 12 times higher than those of the overall workforce, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office study.
Patricia Moon-Updike, a nurse from Cudahy, WI, testified during the hearing about how her life has changed since a 2015 assault by a teen patient. Moon-Updike was kicked in the throat while the patient was being subdued.
“I loved being a nurse,” she said. “I have a huge problem still calling myself a nurse. I lost my career.”
Now on disability, Moon-Updike said she has been diagnosed with moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder, moderate anxiety, insomnia, depressive disorder and social phobia.
“Under this bill, the facility I worked in would be required by OSHA to develop a violence prevention program,” she said. “This is crucial because there currently is no oversight by OSHA or any state agency.”
Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers, also testified, along with Jane A. Lipscomb, a nursing professor at the University of Maryland, who has researched violence in health care and social service settings.
“On a daily basis, social workers in a variety of settings are in harm’s way,” McClain said. In a Feb. 21 press release supporting the legislation, the American Federation of Teachers notes that 80 percent of emergency medical workers will experience violence during their careers, citing a 2016 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“While OSHA has left these workers vulnerable, incidents of workplace violence continue to rise, with 69 percent of reported cases occurring in health care-related settings,” Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, a union of health care professionals, educators and public employees, said in the release.
The AFL-CIO has introduced an online petition in support of H.R. 1309.