Congressman Courtney Introduces Legislation to Reduce Violence Against Health Care and Social Service Workers

WASHINGTON – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), a senior Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced legislation this week to curb rising rates of workplace violence facing health care and social service employees such as nurses, physicians, emergency responders, medical assistants, and social workers. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) is co-sponsored by Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, as well as by 24 other Members of Congress. The bill 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 in the workplace.

Today at 11:30am ET, Congressman Courtney will host a gathering of health care and social service professionals in Hartford, CT for a special event to mark the introduction of H.R. 1309. Click here to learn more about today’s event.

“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 Congressman 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 Committee’s announcement just yesterday of a hearing next week on protecting health care and social workers from workplace violence, we can be assured that this bill is finally poised to move, and not just sit on the shelf.”

“Workplace violence against health care and social service workers continues to threaten those who dedicate their lives to caring for others,” said Chairman Scott. “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 look forward to discussing this and other solutions at next week’s hearing on workplace safety.”

“Every year, more than 850 workers are killed on the job and another 28,000 suffer serious injury”, said Congresswoman Adams. “The Workplace Violence Prevention and Social Services Workers Act sends the message that ‘enough is enough’ — setting a national standard that forces employers to take seriously the health and safety of American workers. I am proud to stand with Rep. Courtney and Chairman Scott in support of this effort, and look forward to its consideration by the House.”

“Health care and social service workers provide care to some of the most vulnerable in our society,” said Congressman John Larson (CT-01). “However, they can be at risk for workplace violence due to their unique roles. I am proud to join Congressman Courtney to ensure these workers are protected from preventable harm.”  

“Health care and social service workers face some of the highest rates of workplace violence,” said Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17). “Violence in any workplace is unacceptable. These workers have dedicated their careers to helping others and deserve to go to work each day with a reasonable expectation of their own safety. I’m proud to partner with Reps. Joe Courtney and Bobby Scott, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, to follow my home state of California’s lead and pass this overdue, common sense legislation.” 

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, 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 unions representing workers in these sectors. Supporting organizations include the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Nurses United, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Government Employees, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, Teamsters, SEIU, The American Association of Fire Fighters, the American Nurses Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the Emergency Nurses Association, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, Public Citizen, and ElevatingHOME. Click here to see the full list of supporting organizations and their endorsements.

On Wednesday, February 27, the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing entitled, “Caring for our Caregivers: Protecting Health Care and Social Service Workers from Workplace Violence.” Click here for more information.


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