AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, the healthcare and social assistance sector accounted for 52 percent of all reported workplace violence events causing injuries resulting in days away from work in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and

WHEREAS, BLS data indicate that the problem is worsening significantly. Rates of workplace violence increased by 64 percent between 2005 and 2014 in private sector facilities, with rates for private sector hospitals climbing by 110 percent; and

WHEREAS, rates of workplace violence in the public sector are much worse. In 2014, rates for state healthcare and social assistance workers were nearly 10 times higher than for those in the private sector, at 135.2 per 10,000 workers vs. 14.4 per 10,000 workers; and

WHEREAS, the Government Accountability Office completed a thorough review of federal data sets and peer-reviewed studies, concluding that workplace violence is a serious hazard for healthcare workers; and

WHEREAS, these statistics represent only a fraction of all the assaults, threats and verbal abuse experienced by healthcare workers. Studies cited by the GAO estimate that only 12 to 40 percent of workers formally reported an incident of workplace violence to their employer; and

WHEREAS, AFT Nurses and Health Professionals members frequently describe impediments to reporting incidents of workplace violence internally or to the police. Many members describe employer policies designed to deter them from reporting assaults; and

WHEREAS, it has been 20 years since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration first issued voluntary guidelines to encourage healthcare and social assistance employers to develop comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs. We have found little evidence to suggest that many employers have implemented such programs; and

WHEREAS, the GAO found research demonstrating the effectiveness of comprehensive workplace violence programs; and

WHEREAS, workplace violence is a serious concern for members throughout the American Federation of Teachers’ healthcare division. Workplace assaults, threats, verbal abuse and bullying impact every affiliate and every local:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will petition the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a federal standard to protect healthcare workers from workplace violence. The standard should require healthcare employers to establish and maintain comprehensive workplace violence prevention programs with genuine worker and union involvement and that include the following elements:

  • Written workplace violence prevention programs that also address bullying and harassment specific to the risk factors and characteristics of the healthcare setting;
  • Genuine worker and union involvement in the development and implementation of the programs through a joint committee;
  • Healthcare facility analysis to identify hazards and conditions, including the tracking of violent incidents and threats;
  • Implementation and evaluation of engineering and administrative controls specific to the existing hazards;
  • Development of a user-friendly reporting system, training for workers on the need to report all incidents, and requirements that prevent reprisals to workers for reporting;
  • Training appropriate to all workers’ specific occupational needs; and
  • Evaluation and recordkeeping to improve the effectiveness of the programs on an ongoing basis; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will assist affiliates lobbying for new or strengthened laws to protect members from workplace violence, including felony laws and comprehensive prevention program laws; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will lobby for federal research on workplace violence, including research on prevention or intervention methods and estimates of employer compliance with the existing OSHA guidance; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to educate affiliates, locals and members about workplace violence prevention programs and the skills needed to implement programs and components, including incident response teams trained to assist victims and witnesses of workplace violence; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will educate members about the importance of reporting all workplace violence to the employer, including assaults, near misses, threats and verbal abuse. We will encourage bargaining for user-friendly reporting systems and reprisal-free reporting; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will educate members about their right to report assaults to the police and press charges.