Healthcare workers face an out-sized risk of physical harm on-the-job. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that more than 75 percent of the 25,000 workplace assaults that occur annually in the U.S. occur in settings like hospitals, nursing homes and other social service settings. On average, health care workers are 20 times more likely to be injured in an act of workplace violence than other types of employees. The American Nurses Association reports 1 in 4 nurses has been physically assaulted by either a patient or a patient’s family member.
This was the basis for the introduction of H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. The measure passed with notable bipartisan support in the House of Representatives (251-158). If passed, it would usher in the healthcare workplace violence prevention standards that already exist in California on a national level. However, it still has to make it through the Senate, and even if it does, officials with the Trump White House have said the president would veto it as written.
The American Hospital Association opposes the bill, with the executive vice president saying federal interests should instead be more focused on “research to identify best practices for different workplace settings and circumstances.” That information should then be disseminated to health care facilities to adopt as necessary, rather than requiring “a one-size-fits-all approach.”
However, the measure is strongly supported by numerous health care worker labor unions.
As our Los Angeles employment attorneys understand, the bill would require employers in the social service and health care sectors across the U.S. to:
- Develop and implement a comprehensive plan to protect these employees from workplace violence;
- Investigate workplace violence risks, hazards and incidents as soon as practically possible;
- Provide training and education to workers who are at high risk of being victimized by workplace violence;
- Meet certain record-keeping requirements when violent incidents occur at work.
Furthermore, employers would be prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who report workplace violence incidents, risks, threats or concerns. This last provision is likely the reason many health care employers and the pro-corporation administration aren’t keen on the law – because it’s probable that this could lead to employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuits against the health care industry.
The good news for health care workers in California is that these protections already largely exist here, thanks to a hard-won fight by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United for S.B. 1299, which was passed in 2014. The law holds California healthcare employers responsible for protecting workers from violence by having a violence prevention plan (overseen by Cal/OSHA). These plans were to be in place no later than April 1, 2018, and had to:
- Identify risk factors specific to each unit, shift and area of the facility;
- Have a plan to prevent the entry of weapons into a facility by patients or visitors;
- Establish procedures to correct workplace violence hazards;
- Provide adequate staffing to protect nurses and other health care workers;
- Offer employee training to recognize the potential for violence and instruction on how to respond;
- Record information about every incident of workplace violence – even if no one was hurt.
These standard apply at all hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, hospice facilities, home healthcare facilities, drug treatment programs, EMS transport units and outpatient medical services offered to those incarcerated.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949-375-4734.
WHAT THE NEW HOUSE BILL ON WORKPLACE VIOLENCE PREVENTION WOULD MEAN FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS, Nov. 23, 2019, By Jennifer Doherty, Newsweek