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Courtney’s Bill to Reduce Violence Against Health Care & Social Service Workers Passes Key House Committee

June 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior Member of the House Education & Labor Committee, voted with the majority of the House Education & Labor Committee to approve the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), a bill that directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a standard requiring health care and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from violent incidents at work. The bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and 171 other Members of Congress. With the Committee’s vote to authorize Congressman Courtney’s bill today, H.R. 1309 may now be scheduled for a final vote by the full House of Representatives.

“The number of violent attacks against health care and social service workers, some of the very people we depend on most when we’re in need, is unconscionable,” said Congressman Courtney. “The reality is that these professions face a disproportionate amount of violence on the job as compared to the rest of the workforce, and data shows that incidents of violence at work against these folks are happening more and more frequently. I’ve worked for years and through far less favorable Congresses to advance this effort. Today’s approval by the Committee is a win for nurses, doctors, educators, social service workers, and others who have committed their working lives to serving others, and who deserve to have their own health and safety finally made a priority.”

A transcript of Congressman Courtney’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s markup is available here.

Before today’s markup began, Congressman Courtney met with Jean Ross, RN, Co-President of National Nurses United, to discuss H.R. 1309. Click here to watch their conversation.

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 2016 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.   

Upon introduction in February, Congressman Courtney’s Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act received support from a host of health care and social service professionals, as well as from unions representing workers in these sectors. Supporting organizations include AFL-CIO, American Industrial Hygiene Association, Alliance for Retired Americans, American Art Therapy Association, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Counseling Association, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, American Federation of Teachers, American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Safety Professionals, Coalition of Labor Union Women of Southwestern PA, Communications Workers of America, Connecticut Association of Nurse Anesthetists, ElevatingHOME, Emergency Nurses Association, International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Michigan Nurses Association, Midstate Education and Service Foundation, National Association of County Behavioral Health & Development Disability Directors, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, National Association of Rural Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, National Nurses United, New York Nurses Association, Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, Public Citizen, Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, School Social Work Association of America, SEIU, Smart Transportation, Teamsters, UAW, United Steelworkers, United Steelworkers, and Worksafe.