Every year, thousands of health care and social service employees are either injured or killed by their own patients, clients, or their family members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 the employees in these two sectors alone suffered 52% of all the workplace violence incidents. And these numbers come from employer reports. The actual numbers are a lot higher. According to one survey, 85% of incidents were not reported.
A new bill, recently introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, is trying to change that.
The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, H.R. 7141, directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to immediately develop 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. The bill covers all 15 million people working in the health care and social service industries, including federal employees.
Currently, OSHA’s guidelines are voluntary and have not motivated employers to adopt preventive measures. OSHA has stepped up its efforts in response to the calls of our union and allies for better preventive measures, but action has stalled under the Trump administration. That’s why this legislation is necessary.
“We expect health care and social service employees to care for us in our times of need, but we know that each year, these men and women are faced with rising rates of violence, often from patients and their families,” said Rep. Courtney. “This legislation compels OSHA to do what employees, safety experts, and members of Congress have been calling on for years – create an enforceable standard to ensure that employers are taking these risks seriously, and creating safe workplaces that their employees deserve.”
Our union supports the bill.
“As the rate of violence against health care and social service employees has increased, we have stepped up our efforts to urge OSHA to develop a standard to protect the workers who care for veterans and for us when we need help and healing,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “That’s why we joined the AFL-CIO, AFT, and other unions in petitioning OSHA to develop a violence prevention standard two years ago, and why we support the bill introduced by Rep. Courtney.”
Our union represents more than 100,000 nurses, doctors and frontline health care providers across government. Their safety, and the safety of all health care workers, is critically important.
Workplace violence in the health care and social service sectors has been a huge problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Between 2011 and 2013 – the most recent year that data were available – there were 24,000 workplace assaults annually, and nearly 75% of those took place in health care and social service settings.
What’s even more disturbing is the fact that their deaths and injuries are preventable. But more than 80% of U.S. employers report no change in their workplace violence preventive measures after a major violent incident.