Press Release

Nurses Applaud Introduction of Federal Legislation to Prevent Workplace Violence in Health Care, Social Service Settings

Workplace Violence Puts Everyone At Risk

National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, announced its support for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, HR 7141, introduced today by Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2).

The bill, introduced with the support of 20 other members of Congress would mandate that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) create a national standard requiring health care and social service employers to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. This legislation is especially important, given that healthcare and social service workers face extremely high rates of workplace violence.

“We applaud Rep. Courtney for introducing a bill that is so critical, not just for nurses and other health care workers, but also for patients, families, and visitors, given that violence impacts everyone in the vicinity of healthcare and social service settings,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo.

“Studies have shown that the frequency and severity of violent attacks can be drastically reduced through comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans. Congressman Ro Khanna led the way this past spring, when he introduced the first workplace violence prevention bill for health care facilities, which has bipartisan support. We applaud Rep. Courtney for building on that legislation and including social service settings in this bill. The introduction of this legislation is an important step forward in the fight to ensure that employers are required to protect their workers from violence before it happens.”

“We expect health care and social service employees to care for us in our times of need, but we know that each year, these men and women are faced with rising rates of violence, often from patients and their families,” said Congressman Courtney. “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.”

The legislation introduced by Rep. Courtney follows the adoption by California OSHA of a groundbreaking health care workplace violence standard that was the result of state legislation sponsored by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act Overview

Addresses an epidemic of violence: Workers in the health care and social assistance industry face extremely high rates of workplace violence. Between 2011 and 2016, as reported in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, at least 58 hospital workers died as a result of violence in their workplaces. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that health care workers at inpatient facilities were 5 to 12 times more likely to experience nonfatal workplace violence than workers overall.

Requires federal OSHA to create a federal workplace violence prevention standard mandating employers develop comprehensive, workplace-specific plans to prevent violence before it happens.

Covers a wide variety of workplaces, including hospitals, residential treatment facilities, non-residential treatment settings, medical treatment or social service settings in correctional or detention facilities, psychiatric treatment facilities, substance use disorder treatment centers, community care settings such as group homes and mental health clinics, and federal health care facilities such as those operated by the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service, as well as field work settings such as home care and home-based hospice, and emergency services and transport services.

Sets a quick timeline on implementation to ensure timely protection for healthcare workers.

Sets minimum requirements for the standard and for employers’ workplace violence prevention plans, based on the groundbreaking California legislation. These requirements include unit-specific assessments and implementation of prevention measures, including physical changes to the environment, staffing for patient care and security, employee involvement in all steps of the plan, hands on training, robust record keeping requirements including a violent incident log, protections for employees to report WPV to their employer and law enforcement, among other requirements.

“Workplace violence against health care and social service workers continues to affect those who dedicate their lives to caring for others,” said Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. “This bill helps address this growing problem by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to set an enforceable standard that will protect workers from preventable acts of workplace violence. I am grateful to Rep. Courtney for his leadership on this bill and will work to give this legislation the urgent attention that it deserves.”

“Right now, health care and social service employers are not doing enough to prevent the violent incidents that nurses and other workers experience daily. Under the proposed federal standard, employers would need to assess and implement interventions that can reduce violence—for example, affixing furniture and lighting so they can’t be used as weapons," said Jean Ross, RN, NNU co-president. “It’s so important for nurses, doctors, and other health care and social service workers to be directly involved in the development and implementation of these plans, because employees know best the risks we face on the job. We applaud Rep. Courtney and the other co-sponsors for listening to the concerns of workers and moving forward with legislation that will prevent injuries and save lives.”