U.S. Senate introduces measure to protect health workers from violence

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Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has introduced a bill to protect healthcare and social services employees from workplace violence. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a standard requiring employers of healthcare and social service workers to write and implement a workplace violence prevention plan to protect their employees from violent incidents.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309) in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 21.

Patt Moon Updike with Sen. Baldwin

On Feb. 27, Patricia “Patt” Moon-Updike, a nurse and member of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, testified before the U. S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., in support of the house version of the bill. Moon-Updike lost her career to workplace violence when she was assaulted by a patient while working at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division. While in Washington, Moon-Updike met with Sen. Baldwin, who was inspired by what she heard.

“Our healthcare and social services workers, and the people they serve, deserve to work and receive services in an environment free from workplace violence,” says Sen. Baldwin. “This bill promotes a healthy environment that is good for both workers and those they serve, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this important effort.”

“When healthcare workers show up to work, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether they are going to be hurt,” says Candice Owley, president of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. “We can’t accept that violence is part of the job. Prevention is possible when systems are put into place to reduce the risk of violence.”

“Incidents of workplace violence continue to rise, with 69 percent of reported cases occurring in healthcare settings,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten.” Thankfully, this bill addresses this increasing trend head-on and provides long-needed protections, and specific and enforceable safety standards for people who work in frontline healthcare jobs.”

[Adrienne Coles]