February 28, 2019

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Workplace Violence in Healthcare and Social Service

A subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor heard testimony on Feb. 27 about possible government action to protect healthcare and social service workers from workplace violence. The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing included testimony related to H.R. 1309, the “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.”

In her opening statement, subcommittee chairwoman Alma Adams, D-N.C., acknowledged that workplace violence is “a serious concern” for 15 million healthcare workers in the United States. Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Adams said that healthcare and social service workers were nearly five times as likely to suffer a serious injury from workplace violence than workers in other sectors.

In 2016, OSHA initiated the rulemaking process for a standard on workplace violence in healthcare and social service. But work on the rule has stalled, and 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.

Adams questioned the effectiveness of the General Duty Clause, which she called “highly burdensome and time consuming.” H.R. 1309 would compel OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers within the healthcare and social service sectors to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan, maintain a log of violent incidents, and prepare an annual summary of those incidents. If passed, the law would require OSHA to issue a final standard within 42 months.

The normal OSHA rulemaking process takes seven years on average, Adams said.

The subcommittee heard testimony in support of H.R. 1309 from a researcher and representatives of professional associations for healthcare workers and social service workers. A fourth witness, from the law firm Keller and Heckman LLP, argued that H.R. 1309 was a “flawed” bill that would unnecessarily dispense with traditional rulemaking procedures.

More information about the hearing, including a video and witnesses’ testimony, is available on the website​ of the House Education and Labor Committee.​​​​​​​