Workplace Violence Prevention

Last November, the House of Representatives passed H. R. 1309, “The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.” The legislation passed with a healthy bipartisan margin (251 to 159) — but most likely won’t go any further during the current administration.

Nevertheless, employers in these business sectors should familiarize themselves with this legislation, as it provides a clear indication of how the federal government will eventually address the issue.

Workplace violence in healthcare and social service settings has been a problem for a long time. One of the key difficulties in addressing it has been a lack of research. Many studies and surveys classify violent incidents differently, which makes the data difficult to evaluate. Also, most research has focused on quantifying the problem rather than studying how to solve it.

There is, however, general agreement that healthcare workers face greater risks than workers in other industry sectors. Between 2011 and 2016, at least 58 hospital workers died as a result of violence in their workplaces. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office found that health care workers at inpatient facilities were far more likely to experience nonfatal workplace violence than workers overall.

The text of H.R. 1309 describes four types of workplace violence:

Criminal Intent. Violence directed at an employee by someone who has no legitimate business at a covered facility.

Customer/Client. Violence directed at an employee by someone receiving services at a covered facility.

Worker-on-Worker. Violence perpetrated by a coworker, manager, or supervisor.

Personal Relationship. Violence perpetrated by someone who is or was in a personal relationship with a covered employee.

The specific requirements of a final standard will probably track closely to the California OSHA standard, which was passed by the California legislature and signed into law in 2017. H.R. 1309 also requires that covered employers must — until final rules are worked out — have a program in place that reflects OSHA’s 2015 guidelines.

Even though H. R. 1309 will be fading into the background, for now, covered employers need to have plans and procedures in place. OSHA isn’t hesitating to use the General Duty Clause to issue and defend citations in this area.

If you are a covered employer, please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns.

About the Author: James Laboe

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