Workplace violence bill would require hospitals to meet OSHA safety standards

Congressman Joe Courtney, D-CT., introduced a bill in Congress that would require hospitals to meet design standards, such as using glass partitions at certain nurse stations, and staffing standards, such as the use of additional security guards, to improve safety for healthcare workers. (Getty/Михаил Руденко)

Psychiatric nurse Barbara Walsh's brush with workplace violence is harrowing.

Seven years ago, co-workers found her semiconscious on the ground after she'd been attacked by a patient during her shift in a New Jersey hospital. Her traumatic brain injury caused her to miss three months of work and left her with lingering headaches and speech problems.

Only days after she returned to work, she was attacked by another patient.

Featured Webinar

Reducing barriers to patient care: A cross-industry collaboration

Optum will bring together cross-industry experts to share a case study detailing how an employer, provider, payer and pharmaceutical company worked together to address migraines, a hard-to-diagnose condition. Learn how this team started with a model to risk stratify, predict undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and mismanaged members and how those analytics were used to enrich engagement for treatment and diagnosis optimization.

"My story is not an isolated one," said Walsh, who was speaking on a press call Wednesday to advocate for a new workplace violence bill introduced last week. Sponsored by Congressman Joe Courtney, D-CT, the bill (H.R. 1309) would require healthcare and social service employers to implement workplace violence prevention plans that would be enforceable by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"This would create a nationally-enforceable standard so that OSHA—as it does in so many other workplace areas of safety—can actually have a measuring stick," Courtney said. For instance, there would be design standards, such as using glass partitions at certain nurse stations, and staffing standards, such as the use of additional security guards, he said. 

The bill was the subject of a hearing held by the House Committee on Education and Labor: Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Courtney introduced a similar bill last session, but it did not get scheduled for a hearing under the Republican-led majority.

Introducing the bill for discussion during the subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., pointed to figures such as Bureau of Labor Statistics report that found healthcare workers are five times as likely to be seriously injured on the job than employees in other sectors.

"These violent incidents are not just part of the job," said Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., the subcommittee chairwoman. "They are predictable and they are preventable. OSHA has not ignored this issue but lacked the tools to address it adequately."

OSHA already has voluntary standards and an online toolkit for hospitals. But requirements are necessary because too many hospitals across the U.S. are "being reactive instead of protective" when it comes to addressing violence, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers which is backing the bill.

It's a problem the hospital industry has already recognized and taken steps to address, the American Hospital Association said.

See the hearing below.

 

Suggested Articles

A New Jersey medical office has filed suit against Cigna, alleging that the insurer failed to pay for diagnostic testing and treatment for COVID-19.

CMS issued new guidance Friday to help states implement the new interoperability policies in Medicaid and CHIP programs.

GoodRx has released its latest list of the most expensive drugs in America, with orphan drugs and therapies for rare conditions topping the ranking.