Workplace violence Legislation Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Lawmakers reintroduce bill on preventing workplace violence in health care, social services

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Washington — A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has reintroduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

The bill (H.R. 1195) – introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) on Feb. 22 and co-sponsored by four Republicans and three Democrats – would direct 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 nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders and others.

Previously introduced as H.R. 1309 in February 2019, the legislation passed the House by a 251-158 vote Nov. 21, 2019, but never came up for a vote in the Senate.

“Health care and social workers have been waiting for years, long before COVID-19, to have their safety taken seriously while they’re working hard to ensure everyone else’s,” Courtney said in a press release. “This workforce faces more on-the-job violence than any other sector in the American economy.”

The rate of violence against health care workers is up to 12 times higher than that of the overall workforce, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office study. The study also showed that 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults that year took place in the health care and social assistance sectors.

The previous version of the bill called on OSHA to develop and implement an interim standard within one year of enactment and complete a final standard within 42 months.

The reintroduction of the bill drew praise from National Nurses United, the largest U.S. union and professional association of registered nurses, which has more than 170,000 members. “We applaud Rep. Courtney for introducing this critical legislation that will save so many lives,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a statement.

In 2020, NNU surveyed more than 15,000 registered nurses and found that about 20% reported an increase of workplace violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“In the midst of the deadliest pandemic of our lifetimes,” Castillo said, “it’s more clear than ever before that we can’t afford to lose one more nurse or health care worker. We urge Congress to swiftly pass Rep. Courtney’s bill.”

The full text of H.R. 1195 – referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, as well as the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees – had not been published as of Feb. 23. Its co-sponsors are Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the Education and Labor Committee; Alma Adams (D-NC), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee; Ro Khanna (D-CA); Don Bacon (R-NE); Don Young (R-AK); Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA); and Tom Cole (R-OK).

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