November 27, 2019

House Passes Bill to Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare, Social Services

On Nov. 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, or H.R. 1309, by a vote of 251 to 158. The bill would require the Department of Labor to promulgate an occupational safety and health standard to require certain employers in the healthcare and social service industries to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. H.R. 1309 also seeks to require employers to investigate workplace violence incidents, risks, or hazards; provide training and education to employees who may be exposed to workplace violence hazards and risks; and meet recordkeeping requirements. Such a standard would also require employers to prohibit acts of discrimination or retaliation against employees who report workplace violence incidents, threats, or concerns.

In 2016, OSHA initiated the rulemaking process for a standard on workplace violence in healthcare and social service. But work on the rule continues to stall. Earlier this year, the projected date for convening a panel to consider a workplace violence standard’s potential impact on small businesses was delayed from March to October 2019. The recently released fall 2019 regulatory agenda for the Department of Labor pushes that date back further—to January 2020. In the absence of a standard on workplace violence, OSHA inspectors must use the agency’s authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause to hold employers accountable for protecting their workers from violence on the job.

Preventing workplace violence is part of AIHA’s Public Policy Agenda, which focuses on 15 worker health and safety challenges in the United States. AIHA supports H.R. 1309 and encourages the U.S. Senate and President Donald J. Trump to enact it into law.

“The threat of workplace violence looms large over healthcare and social service workers as they care for us and our loved ones,” said Kathleen S. Murphy, CIH, president of AIHA. “By enacting this urgently needed bill into law, policymakers will help accelerate the development and implementation of workplace violence prevention plans in some of the nation’s highest risk workplaces.”

H.R. 1309 is on its way to the U.S. Senate, where AIHA’s director of Government Relations, Mark Ames, says its fate is less certain. AIHA members can continue to show support for H.R. 1309 by contacting their senators, urging them to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. Members can use AIHA’s Government Relations Action Center to quickly send a letter to their senators.

For more information on H.R. 1309, visit Congress’ website. An article published in the December 2018 issue of The Synergist discusses strategies for keeping work sites safe from workplace violence.