House passes bill to prevent violence in health care workplaces

Greg Nash

The House passed legislation Friday that would require employers in the health care and social services industries to develop workplace violence prevention plans.

Lawmakers passed the bill 254-166, with 38 Republicans voting with all Democrats in support.

Studies show that workers such as nurses, physicians, social workers and emergency responders face a higher risk of on-the-job violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2018 that the health care and social services industries are five times as likely to suffer workplace violence injuries. Health care workers specifically made up 73 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illness due to violence that year.

Settings such as hospitals create high levels of stress for patients and their families and friends, which can lead to agitation and sometimes violence. Health care and social service workers also at times come into contact with people who are mentally ill and may be prone to violence.

“The fact that we continue to see an alarming growth in violence means that relying on ad hoc, voluntary adoption is failing to protect our health care heroes. We need an enforceable standard,” said Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the bill’s author.

The legislation would direct the Labor Department to issue an interim occupational safety and health standard within a year to require health and social service industry employers to create comprehensive violence prevention plans. A final standard would have to be established within three and a half years.

As part of the violence prevention plans, workplaces would have to provide training to employees at risk of exposure to violence.

Employers would also have to submit an annual summary of violent incidents to the Labor Department.

Republicans in opposition to the bill said that it would result in an overly rushed process and prove costly for the workplaces covered by the proposed standard.

“Legislation that results in a rushed and overly prescriptive rule that omits important input from stakeholders and experts while driving up compliance for already-struggling industries is far from a sensible solution,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, citing a 2018 American Hospital Association survey that 97 percent of respondents already had workplace violence policies in place.

The House this week also passed legislation aimed at reducing the gender pay gap, including to prohibit employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salary histories or retaliate against workers who compare salaries.

Only one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), joined with all Democrats in support of that bill.

Tags BLS Brian Fitzpatrick health care workers Joe Courtney Virginia Foxx

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