Employees in the health care and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence of any industry. Going to work as a social worker, an emergency room nurse, or a psychiatrist shouldn’t mean risking your physical safety. This legislation compels OSHA to do what employees, safety experts, and Members of Congress have been calling for years – create an enforceable standard to ensure that employers are taking these risks seriously, and creating safe workplaces that their employees deserve.
Learn more about my bill, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act below.
Click here for a Section by Section of the legislation.
Click here for bill text
Incidents of violence against health care and social service workers is on the rise. A 2016 GAO study reported that rates of violence against health care workers are up to 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce, and 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults in 2016 occurred in the health care and social assistance sectors. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a sharp increase in serious injuries as a result of workplace violence among health care workers last year. Front line employees in these settings interact with a range of patients, clients, and their families, often with little training or direction for how to prevent or handle interactions that become violent. The Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care and Social Services Act would ensure that health care and social service workplaces adopt proven prevention techniques and are prepared to respond in the tragic event of a violent incident.
In 2013, Courtney requested that the Government Accountability Office study the trends in healthcare workplace violence and identify options for OSHA to curtail it, and in 2015 he and other members asked OSHA to develop a workplace safety standard to protect health care workers from this rising violence. In recent years, OSHA agreed to undergo rulemaking on health care workplace violence, but action has stalled under the Trump Administration. In the absence of voluntary action from OSHA, this legislation is necessary to ensure that nurses, doctors, medical assistants, emergency personnel, and social service workers are not subjected to needless preventable acts of violence on the job.
“We extend our gratitude to Congressmen Courtney for championing this important legislation. It reinforces the urgency to end the cycle of violence and prevent incidences of abuse and harm that nurses routinely face in the workplace,” said Loressa Cole, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, chief executive officer of the American Nurses Association (ANA). “At the heart of this widespread epidemic are existing workplace cultures that discourage nurses from reporting for fear of retribution. This bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that employers not only develop and implement plans to protect their staff, but that they also begin addressing existing barriers to reporting. A safe work environment that promotes physical and psychological well-being is essential to provide quality care and drive positive health outcomes for patients, families and communities.”
"I am pleased that Representative Joe Courtney has introduced legislation to reduce workplace violence. Legislation to protect healthcare and social service workers from violence is long overdue,” said Helene Andrews, RN of Newtown, CT. “During the last eight years that I worked, I was assaulted three times, including on my last day of work. The three assaults resulted in three major surgeries and in lengthy and painful recoveries each time. I suffered for months with each injury and still have residual pain and disabilities. Preventing violent workplace injuries should be given the highest priority, and I salute Rep. Joe Courtney for his efforts."
“Recent patient violence against staff at my hospital has led to nurses with broken jaws, open facial wounds, back injuries requiring surgery, and injuries from a chair being smashed over a nurse’s head,” said Judy Danella, a registered nurse and member of the United Steelworkers union at a hospital in New Jersey. “Injuries from combative patients shouldn’t just be part of the job. Health care workers need strong protections so they can provide quality patient care without fear of violence and injury.”
“As a union of healthcare professionals and educators, we welcome this legislation as it outlines protections and specific safety standards for the people who care for the sick, treat the injured, and work in other front line care jobs. Millions of Americans in the healthcare profession go to work every day care for the sick, the elderly and mentally ill, yet they don’t feel safe or protected themselves from the preventable and often tragic workplace-related assaults that occur in hospitals and other healthcare-related settings. With this bill, we can change that," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
“This bill shatters the dangerous myth that workplace violence is essentially random, unpredictable and therefore unavoidable. We applaud Congressmen Scott and Courtney for pressing for a federal OSHA standard that will call upon employers to identify the clear patterns and risk factors that put mental health professionals, hospital and EMS workers, and too many others at a high risk of experiencing workplace violence. AFSCME members in these professions work hard every day to make their communities healthier and stronger, and for that they deserve respect and protection on the job,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
“We applaud Rep. Courtney and the cosponsors of the Health Care and Social Service Workers Act for listening to the concerns of workers and moving forward with legislation that will prevent injuries and save lives,” said Co-President of National Nurses United, Jean Ross, RN. “Registered Nurses are often threatened, punched, kicked, beaten, and assaulted on the job, sometimes with deadly consequences. Many of these incidents would be preventable if this legislation was enacted. Under this proposed federal standard, employers would need to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans that are implemented at all times, and ensure that health care and social service workers are directly involved in the development, implementation and assessment of these plans. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this legislation and ensure a comprehensive workplace violence prevention standard to protect health care and social service workers and our patients, clients and their families.”
Full List Of Endorsing Organizations:
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
American Federation of Government Employees
International Association of Fire Fighters
National Nurses United
American Nurses Association
American Psychiatric Nurses Association