Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Rep. Sewell Votes in Favor of Legislation To Curb Rising Rates Of Violence Against Health Care And Social Service Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic

Apr 16, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Rep Terri Sewell (AL-07) voted to pass the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, legislation to curb the rising rates of workplace violence facing health care and social service employees, including nurses, emergency responders, medical assistants, physicians, and social workers. 

“While our frontline health care heroes continue to battle this deadly pandemic, the rate of workplace violence against them continues to rise, and the need for action is clear. My vote today for the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act is a vote to ensure these dedicated medical professionals can feel safe again at work,” said Rep. Terri Sewell. “The reality is that these acts of violence are predictable and preventable, and this legislation will set a national standard that forces employers to take seriously the health and safety of our health care workers.” 

Background on the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act

Amid rising rates of workplace violence against health care and social service workers—an epidemic that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—the bill would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue standards requiring health care and social service employers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to prevent and protect employees from assaults at work.

A 2016 GAO study reported that rates of violence against healthcare workers are up to 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce, and 70% of nonfatal workplace assaults in 2016 occurred in the health care and social assistance sectors. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018 found a sharp increase in serious injuries because of workplace violence among health care workers. A 2020 survey of registered nurses conducted by National Nurses United (NNU) found that 20% of registered nurses reported increased workplace violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Front line employees in these settings interact with a range of patients and clients, often with little training or direction for how to prevent or handle interactions that become violent. The Workplace Violence Prevention in Health Care and Social Services Act would ensure that health care and social service workplaces adopt proven prevention techniques and are prepared to respond in the tragic event of a violent incident.

Specifically, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act:  

  • Provides health and social service workers the protection they deserve by compelling OSHA to issue an interim final standard within one year and a final standard within 42 months, requiring employers within the health care and social service sectors to develop and implement comprehensive violence prevention programs to prevent or mitigate violent incidents in the workplace using proven prevention techniques tailored to the risks in a given workplace.
  • Requires employers, in developing their workplace violence prevention programs, to identify risks, specify solutions, and require training, reporting, and incident investigations.
  • Provides protections to workers from retaliation for reporting violent incidents in the workplace.
  • Protects health care and social service workers in the public sector in the 24 states not covered by OSHA.