Workplace violence Legislation Injury prevention Health care/social assistance

Workplace violence in health care: Lawmakers seek stiffer penalties

Photo: SDI Productions/iStockphoto

Washington — Physical assaults on health care workers in hospitals could lead to federal penalties and up to 20 years of jail time, under new bipartisan legislation.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees (SAVE) Act (S. 2768) on Sept. 12. The bill states that anyone who “knowingly assaults” a worker employed by a hospital or “entity contracting with a hospital,” causing interference with work duties, would be subject to fines and up to 10 years in jail.

Anyone who perpetrates an attack with a deadly or dangerous weapon, does serious bodily harm to the worker, or commits an assault during an emergency declaration could face up to 20 years imprisonment.

Further, the bill would direct the Government Accountability Office to study the impacts of the legislation and how the ability to prosecute assaults on health care workers as federal crimes would impact federal, state and local prosecutions.

Between 8% and 38% of health care workers are victims of physical violence at some stage of their careers, the World Health Organization says.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2020, 392 workplace homicides and more than 37,000 nonfatal injuries related to intentional harm from another person were recorded. Health care was the second-leading industry for nonfatal assaults.

“Our nation’s health care workers tirelessly care for the health and well-being of communities across the country, even in the face of increased violence, threats and intimidation,” Manchin said in a press release. “This legislation would create a safer working environment for hospital staff, deter violent behavior and make sure that assailants are appropriately held accountable.”

Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, adds that caregivers and other health care professionals are “the heart of our nation’s health care system and deserve an environment free from violence.”

Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA) in April introduced a companion bill (H.R. 2584) in the House.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)