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Congress Considers Healthcare Violence Prevention

Pennsylvania workers' compensationLast month, legislation was introduced to Congress that would direct OSHA to issue rules aimed at preventing workplace violence in the healthcare sector. Led by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), the bill closely resembles a similar law which went into effect in California last year.

Referred to as the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act, the bill includes instructions for OSHA about deadlines for an interim rule and a final rule, and some minimum standards on what would be expected of that final rule.

Dangers in Healthcare

National Nurses United, the largest union of registered nurses in America, provides some context for the bill. According to their research, registered nurses face a risk of nonfatal injury from violence that is three times higher than the average across other industries, and healthcare workers in inpatient facilities are 5 to 12 times more likely to experience some form of nonfatal workplace violence.

This is just the violence researchers know about or can estimate, which is hindered by the fact that 88 percent of healthcare workers do not report every act of violence they experience. On top of this nonfatal violence, there were at least 58 hospital employees killed by workplace violence between 2011 and 2016.

In a press release for the bill received by Safety and Health Magazine, Khanna explained that “health care workers, doctors and nurses are continuously at risk of workplace violence incidents – strangling, punching, kicking and other physical attacks – that can cause severe injury or death.” In response to this danger, the bill defines violence not only as physical attacks but threats, and considers greater staffing as a means to monitor dangers and respond quickly when they arise.

Time to Act

The full text of the bill also includes deadlines for OSHA to move. If the bill passes, OSHA would be expected to have a suitable interim rule in place within one year of the law’s enactment, and a final rule issued by the law’s second anniversary. The bill also requires that the final rule include “comparable workplace protections at home health agencies or organizations and hospice agencies or organizations.”

These protections include screening for weapons and signs of substance abuse or uncooperative individuals, systems for correcting dangers quickly, and ready access to security personnel or other protective forces like police.

Violence in healthcare is a danger to the public that impacts the speed and quality of care for patients and regularly threatens those who pour themselves out for the benefit of others. The healthcare industry is full of people who work hard to protect us, and it is time we return that protection.

We applaud Rep. Khanna in his efforts to hold healthcare facilities and agencies responsible for the safety of their workers. Until the day our healthcare workers can feel safe at work, we will also continue to stand with those who have been injured while giving aid to others. If you or a loved one has been the victim of workplace violence, contact Vellner Law, PC today.

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