Press Release

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

Nurses hold signs calling for Workplace Violence Prevention"

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, introduced today by Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-2). The bill, introduced with bipartisan support, 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 the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence, with signs that the violence may be increasing during Covid-19. In a November 2020 NNU survey of 15,000 registered nurses across the country, 20 percent of RN respondents reported an increase in violence during the pandemic.

“We applaud Rep. Courtney for introducing this critical legislation that will save so many lives,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “Studies have shown that having a plan in place to stop health care workplace violence before it happens reduces incidents of violence—and yet, there is no federal requirement for health care employers to have a prevention plan. Now, in the midst of the deadliest pandemic of our lifetimes, it’s more clear than ever before that we can’t afford to lose one more nurse or health care worker. We urge Congress to swiftly pass Rep. Courtney’s bill.”

“Health care and social workers have been waiting for years, long before Covid, to have their safety taken seriously while they’re working hard to ensure everyone else’s,” said Rep. Courtney. “Our nurses and health care professionals face more on-the-job violence than any other sector in the American economy and the rates have been on the rise for years, even during the Covid-19 crisis. These incidents are predictable and preventable, and it’s time we ensure workplaces take the steps that we know work to avoid them. This is an extremely flexible and bipartisan proposal, and it’s driven by the very workers who are most at risk. I’m grateful for the support of our bipartisan coalition, and especially for the support of organizations like National Nurses United and their members across the country who have helped us drive this bill farther and farther ahead. We’re ready to work hard to move this effort across the finish line in the 117th Congress.”

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. Courtney also sponsored an earlier version of this legislation which was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 251-158 in November 2018 with strong bipartisan support.

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. According to a 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics fact sheet on health care workplace violence, the health care and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence and are five times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall. A 2018 report by the Joint Commission, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showed that violence-related injuries are four times more likely to cause health care workers to take time off from work than other kinds of injuries. Yet, the actual number of violent incidents involving health care workers is likely much higher because reporting is voluntary.

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.

“This legislation will hold employers accountable, through federal OSHA, for having a prevention plan in place to stop workplace violence before it occurs,” Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, president, National Nurses United. “This is literally a life or death issue, especially during Covid-19, when nurses and other health care workers already face so many stressors and risks. Every moment we wait puts lives in jeopardy. We all deserve to feel safe in hospitals, clinics and social service settings, which should be places of healing.”