You may recall from our prior updates that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been concerned with the prevalence of injuries suffered by healthcare and social service employees due to work-related violence for some time. Lacking a specific standard applicable to this risk, OSHA has usually relied on the General Duty Clause to address this issue. However, in 2015 OSHA issued an updated voluntary guideline for violence prevention in healthcare and social services (https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/risk-management/Documents/osha3148.pdf) and in 2016 OSHA proposed a specific Standard covering violence in the healthcare and social service sectors. Unfortunately, the proposed Standard has languished and there has been little progress in moving it towards completion in the past three years.
Apparently dissatisfied with OSHA’s slow progress in developing its own Standard, Representative Joe Courtney (D. Ct.) recently filed H.R. 1309 “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Services Act.” This bill requires the Department of Labor to address workplace violence in the healthcare and social service sectors. Specifically, if the bill becomes law, it will require the DOL to promulgate an occupational safety and health standard that requires certain employers in the healthcare and social service sectors, as well as employers in sectors that conduct activities similar to the activities in the healthcare and social service sectors, to develop and implement comprehensive plans for protecting healthcare workers, social service workers, and other personnel from workplace violence.
In addition, those employers must:
- investigate workplace violence incidents, risks, or hazards as soon as practicable;
- provide training and education to employees who may be exposed to workplace violence hazards and risks;
- meet record keeping requirements; and
- prohibit acts of discrimination or retaliation against employees for reporting workplace violence incidents, threats, or concerns.
Although it is unlikely that this bill will become law, it is likely that it will prompt OSHA to move forward with the development of its own Standard. This new Standard will probably contain specific training, policy and record keeping requirements. Employers involved in the healthcare and social services sectors should review their workplace violence policies and procedures in anticipation of a new Standard. We will continue to track the progress of this bill and OSHA’s proposed Standard and issue new updates as needed. As always, don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have any questions.