Press Release

AFT Supports Legislation to Make Workplaces for Healthcare, Social Service Employees Safer

For Release: 

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Elena Temple

WASHINGTON—The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (H.R. 1309), introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), would make nurses and healthcare workers safer in their workplaces. The bill requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop protection measures and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line healthcare jobs, who are five times more likely to be assaulted at work than the rest of the labor force.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 80 percent of emergency medical workers experience violence during their careers, some reporting verbal assault and some reporting physical abuse. And the rates are rising.  Between 2007 and 2017, rates of violence in hospitals grew by 123 percent. 

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “Our nurses and health industry workers care every day for the sick, the elderly and the mentally ill, yet they often feel unsafe or unprotected themselves from the assaults that occur in hospitals and other healthcare-related settings.”

“While OSHA has left these workers vulnerable,” she said, “incidents of workplace violence continue to rise, with 69 percent of reported cases occurring in healthcare settings. Thankfully, this bill addresses this increasing trend head-on, and it provides long-needed protections and specific and enforceable safety standards for people who work in front-line healthcare jobs.”

Weingarten concluded, “No one should face violence, intimidation or fear for their safety while they’re on the job. And as a union of healthcare professionals, educators and public employees, we welcome this effort to finally make federal workplace-safety regulations a priority.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.