A bill to address workplace violence in the health care and social service sectors was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), sponsored by Rep. Courtney, Joe [D-CT-2] passed the House Nov. 21 and would need to be approved by the Senate before taking effect.

H.R. 1309 would require the U.S. Department of Labor to promulgate an occupational safety and health standard that requires certain employers in the health care and social service sectors, as well as employers in sectors that conduct activities similar to the activities in the health care and social service sectors, to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for protecting health care workers, social service workers, and other personnel from workplace violence.

In addition, those employers must:

  • investigate workplace violence incidents, risks, or hazards as soon as practicable;
  • provide training and education to employees who may be exposed to workplace violence hazards and risks;
  • meet record keeping requirements; and
  • prohibit acts of discrimination or retaliation against employees for reporting workplace violence incidents, threats, or concerns.

The measure is badly needed, according to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “Health care and social service workers, especially women, are at greatest risk of violence on the job because they are on the front line as our caretakers,” Shuler said. “This bill is about protecting their lives, and every single senator should follow the House’s lead and be clamoring to vote for this critical, life-saving legislation.”

One of every six workplace deaths is from workplace violence. And workplace violence also is responsible for more than 30,000 serious, lost-time injuries for workers each year.

Shuler said the labor movement has long been leading the efforts to gain OSHA protections for front-line workers that would reduce preventable injuries due to workplace violence. Currently, there is no federal OSHA workplace violence standard.

“Enough is enough. Now is the time to protect front-line workers from assaults and keep them safe at work.”