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Workplace violence prevention bill aimed at health care and social services

Photo: LumiNola/iStockphoto

Washington — Newly introduced legislation would direct OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers in the health care and social services sector to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan.

Announced April 18 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), the Workplace Violence Prevention of Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (S. 1176 and H.R. 2663) also calls on OSHA to issue an interim standard within one year of enactment, and a final rule within 42 months. 

Employers would be required to:

  • Develop processes to identify and respond to risks and hazards that make settings vulnerable to violence.
  • Implement protocols to document and investigate acts of violence.
  • Create an environment that supports workers who report violent incidents, including non-retaliation policies.
  • Ensure employees are appropriately trained in identifying and addressing hazards, and their rights regarding workplace violence.

The bill would cover a variety of workplaces, including residential and nonresidential treatment facilities, psychiatric treatment facilities, community care settings, home care, home-based hospice, and substance use disorder treatment centers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, health care and social services workers comprised 76% of all victims of workplace violence resulting in nonfatal injuries.

“No worker – especially those we rely on for care – should be injured or killed on the job,” Courtney said in a press release. “This legislation would put proven tactics into practice in hospitals and health care settings across the country to prevent violence before it happens.”

In a separate release, Emergency Nurses Association President Terry Foster urges Congress to act now. “Continued violence against emergency nurses or any health care worker is neither normal nor acceptable, under any circumstance, yet the problem has gone unabated to the point of it becoming a crisis.”

Numerous other associations and labor groups are backing the bill, including National Nurses United; the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the National Association of Social Workers; the American Psychiatric Association; and the American Federation of Teachers.

“Workplace violence in the health care industry was rampant before COVID-19, with the pandemic only exacerbating the safety issues facing frontline workers,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “It’s why Rep. Courtney and Sen. Baldwin’s bill addressing workplace violence is so crucial.” 

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