Nurses’ Union Supports Legislation to Prevent Workplace Violence

By Jennifer Thew

Workplace violence is a serious, and growing issue, in healthcare. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, from 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents was, on average, over four times greater in healthcare than in private industry. Plus, according to the administration’s website, “healthcare accounts for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined.”

Now, national legislation has been introduced to address the issue. In November, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-CT, introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, HR 7141.

The bill would mandate that OSHA establish a national standard requiring healthcare and social service employers to create and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan.

“We applaud Rep. Courtney for introducing a bill that is so critical, not just for nurses and other healthcare workers, but also for patients, families, and visitors, given that violence impacts everyone in the vicinity of healthcare and social service settings,” said National Nurses United Executive Director Bonnie Castillo in a news release. NNU is a union and professional organization representing 150,000 registered nurses.
The bill:

  • Requires OSHA to create a federal workplace violence prevention standard that mandates employers develop comprehensive, workplace-specific plans to prevent violence before it occurs.
  • Encompasses a wide array of workplaces, beyond just acute care hospitals. This includes residential treatment facilities, non-residential treatment settings, psychiatric treatment facilities, and substance use disorder treatment centers. Community care settings, federal health care facilities, field work settings such as home care and emergency services, would be covered as well.
  • Establishes minimum requirements for the standard and for employers’ workplace violence prevention plan. This includes unit-specific assessments and implementation of prevention measures, physical environmental changes, staffing for patient care and security, employee input in the plan, and hands on training. Record keeping requirements include a violent incident log and protections for employees to report workplace violence to their employers and law enforcement.

“Right now, healthcare and social service employers are not doing enough to prevent the violent incidents that nurses and other workers experience daily. Under the proposed federal standard, employers would need to assess and implement interventions that can reduce violence—for example, affixing furniture and lighting so they can’t be used as weapons,” Jean Ross, RN, NNU co-president says in a news release.  “It’s so important for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare and social service workers to be directly involved in the development and implementation of these plans, because employees know best the risks we face on the job.”