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

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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has reintroduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

The bill (H.R. 1195) – introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) on Feb. 22 and co-sponsored by four Republicans and three Democrats – directs OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers in the health care and social services industries develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans to protect nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders and others. The proposed federal legislation pertains, not only to hospitals, but also to facilities such as Veterans’ Affairs, the Indian Health Service and home-based hospice.

Previously introduced as H.R. 1309 in February 2019, the legislation passed the House by a 251-158 vote Nov. 21, 2019, but never came up for a vote in the Senate.

The cost of covering violence-preventing security measures, whether in the form of hiring security staff, installing security infrastructure and providing training for staff, is a big expense, according to an American Hospital Association 2017 Cost of Community Violence to Hospitals and Health Systems.

The rate of violence against health care workers is up to 12 times higher than that of the overall workforce, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office study. The study also showed that 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults that year took place in the health care and social assistance sectors.

In 2020, NNU surveyed more than 15,000 registered nurses and found that about 20% reported an increase of workplace violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act has received praise from national organizations such as the Emergency Nurses Association; “Emergency nurses and physicians go to work every day driven by their commitment to caring for patients – they shouldn’t have to do so with fear of being violently attacked,” said ENA President Ron Kraus, MSN, RN, EMT, CEN, ACNS-BC, TCRN. “This legislation takes a positive step toward protecting the safety of all emergency health care providers.”

The full text of H.R. 1195 – referred to the House Education and Labor Committee, as well as the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees – had not been published as of Feb. 23. Its co-sponsors are Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the Education and Labor Committee; Alma Adams (D-NC), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee; Ro Khanna (D-CA); Don Bacon (R-NE); Don Young (R-AK); Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA); and Tom Cole (R-OK). View the legislation here

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