A bill mandating a federal workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare and social services passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish an interim standard within 1 year, a proposed standard within 2 years, and a final standard within 4 years.

The standard called for in the bill would require employers to establish comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans to protect healthcare and social services workers. An interim standard would be based on OSHA’s 2015 “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers.” A final standard would have to be at least as protective as any existing state standard.

California has a workplace violence prevention standard for all employers in the state.

Standard Requirements

The bill, if enacted, would mandate a standard that applied to all hospitals and medical treatment centers; clinics at correctional facilities; group homes, mental health clinics, psychiatric treatment facilities, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment facilities; and freestanding emergency centers. Covered social services would include emergency medical and fire services, home-based social work and field services, and home health care and home-based hospice care.

Requirements of a final standard would include: written workplace violence prevention plans, developed with employee participation, covering hazard prevention, incident response, reporting, and postincident investigation procedures; emergency response procedures, including procedures for mass-casualty incidents and incidents involving firearms or weapons; training and education for covered employees; violent incident logs and records of hazard assessments and employee training; and an annual summary of each logged violent incident and a report submitted each February 15 to OSHA.

Employers also would be required to perform an annual evaluation of their workplace violence prevention programs with the participation of covered employees and their representatives.

The bill also contains an antiretaliation clause to protect employees who report an incident or threat of violence.

The bill also characterizes four types of workplace violence: Type 1 violence directed at an employee by someone who has no legitimate business at a covered facility; Type 2 violence directed at an employee by someone receiving services at a covered facility; Type 3 violence perpetrated by a coworker, manager, or supervisor; and Type 4 violence perpetrated by someone who is or was in a personal relationship with a covered employee.

The bill also would amend the Social Security Act to require facilities to comply with the standard if they receive Medicare funds but do not otherwise fall under OSHA’s authority.

A coalition of labor unions petitioned OSHA to establish a workplace violence prevention standard, and the agency issued a request for information December 7, 2016. OSHA asked for public input on what a federal standard should contain, as well as the costs and benefits of any standard, and potential impacts on small businesses.

The agency plans to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review of the rulemaking, now in a prerule status, beginning January 2020.

The bill was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.  

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