Nurses Applaud Introduction of Federal Legislation to Prevent Workplace Violence in Health Care, Social Service Settings
National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, today announced its support for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (HR 1309), officially re-introduced this week by Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2).
The bill, introduced with the support of 26 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.
“As nurses who work at the bedside, our union has seen violence reach epidemic proportions in our hospitals and clinics,” said NNU Copresident Jean Ross, RN. “Employers’ failure to prevent violence not only harms nurses and other healthcare workers, but it harms our patients too. That’s why our union fought for—and won—a landmark workplace violence prevention standard in California, and why we applaud Rep. Courtney for moving forward legislation to create comprehensive federal protections for nurses and other healthcare professionals against violence on the job.”
“Health care and social service workers face a disproportionate amount of violence at work, and the data shows that these incidents are on the rise,” said Rep. Courtney. “Safety experts, employees, and members of Congress have been pressing OSHA to address this outsized risk of violence for years, but have seen no meaningful action. This legislation is the result of a five-year process to build the foundation for long overdue change to protect America’s caring professions, and would require OSHA to issue a Workplace Violence Prevention Standard, giving workers the security that their employers are implementing proven practices to reduce the risk of violence on the job.”
With the House Committee on Education and Labor's announcement of a hearing on the bill next week, Courtney emphasizes that the bill is “finally poised to move, and not just sit on the shelf.” The legislation 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.
“We know that violence can be prevented when employers establish plans that are tailored to fit the risks at each workplace and each patient care unit with the input of nurses and other workers at the bedside,” said Ross. “Nurses look forward to working with Congress on the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, and we encourage every representative to cosponsor this legislation.”