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Proposed Legislation Requires OSHA Workplace Violence Standard for Healthcare and Social Service Workers

Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2018 6:26 am

Legislation was introduced last month to address the high rates of workplace violence faced by the nation’s health care and social service workers.  The “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act” would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to issue a standard that requires covered employers within the health care and social services industries to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan.

The legislation was drafted in response to several reports that the health care and social service industries experience the highest rates of injuries caused by workplace violence.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, reports that health care and social service workers suffered 69% of all workplace violence injuries caused by 22 persons in 2016 and are nearly 5 times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury than workers overall.  Although OSHA has issued Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, this guidance is not legally enforceable and employers lack mandatory requirements to implement a violence prevention program.

U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who introduced the legislation, provided a section-by-section summary of the Act. 

The bill requires OSHA to establish a standard (“OSHA standard”) under which each covered employer must develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (“Plan”) tailored to the relevant hazards in the specific facility.  These plans would include both work practice controls (e.g., security and training on de-escalation techniques) and environmental controls (e.g., personal alarm devices, adequate exit routes, and surveillance monitoring systems).

The OSHA standard would also require:

  • Employers to investigate each incident of workplace violence as soon as practicable, document the findings, and take corrective measures.
  • Employers to provide annual in-person training and education to employees. When employees are reassigned, they must receive additional training.
  • Employers to record workplace violence incidents in a Violent Incident Log (“Log”), an annual summary of which would be posted in the workplace.
  • Employers to maintain records related to the Plan, and allow employees to examine and make copies of the Plan, the Log and related Plan documents, with appropriate protections for patient and worker privacy.
  • Retaliation is prohibited against a covered employee for reporting a workplace violence incident, threat, or concern.

The standard would cover hospitals, residential treatment facilities, non-residential treatment settings, medical treatment or social service settings in correctional or detention facilities, psychiatric treatment facilities, substance use disorder treatment centers, community care settings such as group homes and mental health clinics, and federal health care facilities such as those operated by the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service, as well as field work settings such as home care and home-based hospice, and emergency services and transport services.  The rule would cover direct-hire employees, contracted and subcontracted employees, and temporary or leased employees employed at these covered facilities.

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