The bill (H.R. 1195) – reintroduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) on Feb. 22 and co-sponsored by six Republicans and 139 Democrats – would direct OSHA to issue a standard requiring employers in the health care and social services industries to develop and implement workplace violence prevention plans to protect nurses, physicians, social workers, emergency responders and others.
Courtney's office cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that workers in health care and social services professions are five times more likely to suffer a serious injury related to workplace violence than workers in other sectors.
Previously introduced as H.R. 1309 in February 2019, the legislation passed the House by a 251-158 vote Nov. 21, 2019, but never came up for a vote in the Senate.
In his comments to the committee in March, Courtney said workplace violence against health care and social services professionals not only impacts them physically, but affects their “sense of safety at work, contributes to burnout, turnover, high workers' compensation costs and stress.”
He added: “Long after COVID-19 is controlled, these workers will continue to face dangers of preventable violence at work unless this bill is enacted.”
The bill's advancement drew praise from National Nurses United – the largest U.S. union and professional association of registered nurses.
“These protections are long overdue for the scores of registered nurses and other health care workers who are on the front lines,” NNU President Jean Ross said in a press release. “Our nurses and social service workers are facing enough stress during this pandemic.”
The bill now goes before the full House for a vote.