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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Reform to Protect Health Care and Social Services Workers from Workplace Violence

Legislation creates standard requiring health care and social service employers to implement workplace violence prevention plan and protect employees from violent incidents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Ranking Member of the Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, today introduced legislation to protect health care and social services employees from workplace violence.

In recent years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agreed to undergo rulemaking on health care workplace violence, and do what some employers are doing voluntarily, and what safety experts and some Members of Congress have been calling for years but action has stalled under the Trump Administration. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act directs 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 their employees from violent incidents.

“Our health care and social services workers, and the people they serve, deserve to work and receive services in an environment free from workplace violence,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m proud to lead this important effort to provide overdue protections and safety standards to a workforce that serves people during some of their most vulnerable moments. This bill promotes a healthy environment that is good for both workers and those they serve, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this important effort.”

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.

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. More information about this legislation is available here.

The 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 unions representing workers in these sectors, including American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, American Federation of Government Employees, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Nurses United, United Steelworkers, and Public Citizen. A full list of quotes from supporters of this legislation is available here.

“When health care workers show up to work, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they are going to be hurt,” said Candice Owley, President of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals (WFNHP). “We can’t accept that violence is part of the job. Prevention is possible when systems are put into place to reduce the risk of violence.  Thankfully, Senator Baldwin's bill provides long-needed protections and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line health care jobs. As a union of health care professionals, we welcome this effort to finally make workplace-safety a priority.”

“As nurses who work at the bedside, our union has seen violence reach epidemic proportions in our hospitals and clinics. 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. 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. 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,” said Jean Ross, RN, Co-President of National Nurses United.

“The National Association of Social Workers is proud to support the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.  This bill is a crucial step in reducing the staggering number of preventable physical and psychological assaults on social workers and other health and social services professionals.  NASW supports these and other measures to protect these professionals, who provide a wide range of critically needed services in increasingly complex and dangerous settings,” said Angelo McClain, Chief Executive Office of the National Association of Social Workers.

“The American Nurses Association, representing the nation’s 4 million registered nurses, is indebted to the members of Congress who remain steadfast in championing this critical legislation. We believe in this bill because it underscores the urgency to address existing workplace cultures that discourage nurses from reporting for fear of retribution and to implement plans that prevent incidence of violence in the workplace. Safe work environments and quality care are not mutually exclusive, both must be considered in order to promote positive health outcomes for patients and communities. This bill is a step towards meaningful progress to prevent incidents of violence in all health care settings and we thank Rep. Courtney for introducing this legislation,” said Ernest Grant, President of the American Nurses Association.

“Our nurses and health industry workers care every day for the sick, the elderly and the mentally ill, yet they often feel unsafe or unprotected themselves from the assaults that occur in hospitals and other healthcare-related settings. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has left these workers vulnerable, incidents of workplace violence continue to rise with 69 percent of reported cases occurring in healthcare settings. Thankfully, this bill addresses this increasing trend head-on and provides long-needed protections and specific and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line healthcare jobs,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“We applaud the introduction of this bill requiring OSHA to finally address the epidemic of workplace violence against health care and social service workers. For too long, our members working across health care settings and job classifications have lived with the knowledge that they could fall victim to violence just by doing their jobs. Workplace violence is preventable, and our union supports this bill,” said Leo W. Gerard, President of United Steel Workers International.