January 12, 2021 / Mark Ames

Assault on Capitol Hill: A Personal Perspective

I find myself in a kaleidoscope of emotion when I think about the assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. Each of us is processing the collective trauma in our own way. For me, it feels as though I’ve been personally attacked. You see, in many ways, the Capitol represents an anchor of my soul.

As a government relations professional, I’ve spent thousands of hours on Capitol Hill, and over the years, it has been grafted onto my identity. When I was a young student at American University in Washington, D.C., my first date with my future wife was on the steps of the Capitol. As a Capitol Hill intern, I escorted constituents on tours of the Capitol, walking through Statuary Hall and into the House Gallery to watch as members of Congress brought the Constitution’s dream of democracy to life. My wedding rehearsal dinner was next to the Capitol, and I’ve run marathons around it. I’ve been in Washington, D.C. for about 20 years and a Federal lobbyist for most of that time. My wife is a lobbyist and many of our friends and colleagues are lobbyists or work on the Hill. As much as it is a symbol of American democracy, in many ways Capitol Hill represents the hopes, dreams, and treasured memories of my life.

That said, perhaps you can understand why I feel personally assaulted by the violence and yearn for action. Thankfully, AIHA has a plan to help.

Workplace violence is far from a new phenomenon. Each year, hundreds of people are killed and thousands injured as a result of workplace violence. As AIHA states in its White Paper on the Prevention of Workplace Violence (PDF), “Workplace violence is a serious occupational hazard that is often predictable and preventable.” Despite this, OSHA has no enforceable workplace violence prevention standard. To solve this problem, AIHA recommends that the U.S. Department of Labor issue a new rule on workplace violence prevention. AIHA also encourages members of Congress to approve legislation that would support the Department of Labor in quickly issuing such a standard.

In the meantime, as indicated in AIHA’s White Paper, there are many things occupational and environmental health and safety professionals can do right now to help prevent and address workplace violence, including:

  • implementation of facility-specific workplace violence prevention programs to protect all personnel from exposure to occupational violence, especially in industries with high rates of workplace violence
  • participation in interdisciplinary teams that develop and implement workplace violence prevention programs
  • advocacy for an expanded budget for public health research on gun violence in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at CDC and the Department of Justice, and for the release of data about gun crimes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • continued corporate, academic, and government funding to support research in workplace violence prevention, particularly in the following areas: characterization of environmental, organizational, and personal factors for workplace violence in high-risk industries and occupations; analysis of injuries, lost work time, and costs associated with workplace violence; evaluation of the effectiveness of controls such as security hardware, alarms, workplace redesign, emergency systems, training programs, written prevention programs, and trauma response; the testing of intervention strategies for effectiveness; and program evaluation

Together, we can help prevent workplace violence and make our nation a better place to work and live.

Mark Ames

Mark Ames is AIHA’s director of Government Relations.

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