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A bill aimed at reducing workplace violence incidents against health care and social service employees has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a hearing on the bill scheduled for next week.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut, a senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) on Tuesday to direct the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a standard that requires covered employers within the health care and social service industries to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace
violence prevention plan. The House committee has also scheduled a hearing on the issue on Wednesday.
“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,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday. “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.”
In 2016, 117 employees in the sector were fatally injured, with 42 of those deaths coming from violence and other injuries by persons or animals — an increase from the 109 employees fatally injured in the sector, 27 of whom died due to these types of violent incidents in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“Health care and social service workers face some of the highest rates of workplace violence,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in the statement. “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.”
Mr. Courtney has introduced a similar bill in previous legislative sessions, but “we can be assured that this bill is finally poised to move, and not just sit on the shelf” in light of the committee’s hearing announcement, he said.
OSHA does not currently have a specific standard for workplace violence prevention, but the agency has utilized the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause to cite health care employers for not protecting their employees from violent workplace incidents and continues to do so under the Trump administration, according to workplace safety experts. But such a standard is on the agency’s regulatory radar.
U.S. workplace safety regulators have cited a Colorado nursing home for failing to protect its employees from workplace violence.