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Baldwin Pushes to Reduce Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers

May 11, 2022 by Alexa Hornbeck

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., attended a press conference on Wednesday where she spoke about the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which she introduced in the U.S. Senate on May 11. 

“[Health care workers] have seen a spike in senseless violence against them,” Baldwin said, during the press conference held by National Nurses United.

A recent survey of 2,500 hospital nurses from National Nurses United shows that nearly half of RNs reported an increase in workplace violence; up nearly 57% from September 2021 and 119% from March 2021. 

Even before the pandemic, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that rates of violence against health care workers are up to 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce.

The House previously passed a version of the bill known as HR. 1195 on April 16, 2021. The bill was taken up twice by the House in 2019 and 2021.

“We are now taking a big step forward by introducing companion legislation in the Senate today,” said Baldwin. 

According to Baldwin, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act would ensure that health care and social services workplaces adopt proven prevention techniques, and are prepared to respond in the event of a violent incident.

Baldwin said the legislation, which was introduced during National Nurses week, currently has 26 co-sponsors.

The legislation will require employers in the health care social service sectors to develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan tailored to specific workplaces and worker populations.

Employers would be required to work with employees to identify hazards, develop systems for reporting threats of violence and injuries, provide training for workers and management and protect workers from retaliation for reporting violent workplace incidents.

Prevention strategies would include installing alarm devices, lighting security and surveillance and monitoring systems in health care and social services workplaces to reduce the risk of a violent assault and injuries.

A study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that 50% of all victims of workplace violence are health care workers, and that violence is underreported by hospital employers. 

Various scientific studies have also found that OSHA guidelines significantly reduce the incidence of workplace violence.

“But these recommendations are not enforceable without a federal standard,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., during the press conference. 

Courtney said there are few states which have adopted and enforce workplace violence policies and are currently ensuring that those policies are implemented by employers. 

California is one of the states that has implemented its own protections for health care workers. 

Valencia Davis, a health care worker for 38 years in Riverside, California, recalled two violent work experiences during the press conference, one in which a patient locked her in a room and grabbed her aggressively. 

“I was so afraid, and I couldn’t get away so I started yelling, crying,” said Davis. 

“These incidents occurred before 2019, when my state of California enacted our own workplace violence standard, and had a workplace violence standard already been in place my employer might have been prepared. Now they are required to make a plan that includes frontline caregivers’ input, and every health caregiver and America deserves the same opportunity,” continued Davis. 

Alexa can be reached at alexa@thewellnews.com.

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