Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the House of Representatives dedicated hours of work, debated, and ultimately passed, another priority of ANA – H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.
Studies show one in four nurses has been assaulted at work – making nurses more likely to be exposed to violence than either prison guards or police officers. H.R. 1309 requires the Department of Labor to address needed protections from workplace violence in the health care and social services sectors. It directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a standard requiring health care and social service employers to develop and implement a comprehensive violence prevention plan tailored to the facility and services with the intention to protect employees from violent incidents in the workplace.
We are pleased to report the final vote in the House of Representatives was 251-158 – including 32 Republicans. Unlike other pieces of legislation that ANA supports, including the recently passed H.R. 728, Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act, H.R. 1309 is not as bipartisan. A chief concern amongst Republicans is the worry about smaller hospitals and facilities complying within the given time. With that said, we are very encouraged to hear Republicans and Democrats all acknowledge this is a major issue and something needs to be done. The issue is finding the sweet spot where the legislation can receive bipartisan support.
So, now we look to the Senate knowing we have an uphill battle ahead. We must continue to educate members of Congress about this issue and its severe implications if something is not done soon. To join us in this effort, please go here.
However, ANA is not just focused on Congress. Before the vote in the House of Representatives, the White House issued a statement of administration policy which stated that it opposes H.R. 1309 in its current form. An example given is the Administration believes the bill’s timelines for issuing the interim final, proposed final, and final standards are inappropriate. It notes that OSHA has announced plans for a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel to address these issues. We are calling on the SBREFA panel to come together and make a final decision as soon as possible.
Additionally, ANA staff is meeting with key agencies, including OSHA, to educate agency staff on the importance of this issue and see how we can all work together to move the needle in the right direction.
Safe work environments and quality care are not mutually exclusive; both must be considered in order to promote positive health outcomes for patients and communities. Let’s work together to continue to send that message to Capitol Hill to ensure that nurses are safe in the workplace.