Workplace violence Legislation Unions Workplace exposures Health care/social assistance Health Care Workers

Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Act introduced in the Senate

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Washington — A companion bill to the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1195), passed by the House in April 2021, has been introduced in the Senate.

The legislation 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.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the bill’s sponsor, made the announcement alongside representatives from National Nurses United and other labor unions during a May 11 virtual press conference. Baldwin noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging for workers in health care and social services.

“They have faced unprecedented obstacles to just stay healthy and do their jobs,” Baldwin said. “On top of it all, they’ve seen a spike in senseless violence against them. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Released in April, the results of an NNU survey of more than 2,500 hospital nurses show that 48% of respondents reported experiencing a small or significant increase in workplace violence – up from 30.6% in September and 21.9% in March 2021.

“We are bearing the brunt of a broken health care system at a time when people’s frustration and stress are at their highest,” said NNU President Jean Ross, a registered nurse from Minnesota. “The violence is just getting worse. We are not willing to take it any longer.”

Ross added that the legislation is necessary because “health care employers won’t do it on their own.”

She continued: “We are tired of being called heroes and angels while our health and safety – and our very lives – are being put in jeopardy. We need action.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten were also on hand to express their support for the bill.

 

Baldwin, who is a member of the Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, noted that the bill has 26 co-sponsors. H.R. 1195 – sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) – passed by a 254-166 vote, with 38 Republicans voting in support.

Courtney, who has been married to a nurse practitioner for more than 30 years, said the bill can make health care and social services employers more attractive to potential job seekers in a difficult labor market.

“The best way [employers] can enhance their position regarding hiring is to make it clear to people that their safety matters when they go to work … and that you’re not having to engage in martial arts every day when you’re just trying to do your job,” he said.

Courtney’s bill initially passed the House by a 251-158 vote Nov. 21, 2019, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. He reintroduced the bill on Feb. 22, 2021.

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