Bill Proposed to Make Assaulting Healthcare Workers a Federal Crime

Efforts to reduce workplace violence in healthcare settings are coming from both health organizations and Capitol Hill.

By Jeff Wardon, Jr., Assistant Editor

An unfortunate reality that plagues healthcare workers is the rise in workplace violence. Whether it be coworkers or patients/visitors inflicting it, action must be taken to stem the tide of violent incidences in healthcare facilities. Action can come from many places, both from within organizations and even from government legislation.  

According to a news release from the American Hospital Association (AHA), Senators Joe Manchin and Marco Rubio introduced the “Safety from Violence for Healthcare Employees Act.” This legislation would make assaulting healthcare workers in hospitals a federal crime. There would also be enhanced penalties for assaults that end in serious bodily harm. If passed, the Government Accountability Office would be required to study how effective the bill is in reducing violence in the healthcare sector. 

In 2020, there were 8,590 nonfatal workplace intentional injuries by another person that required at least a day away from work for the healthcare practitioners and technical occupational group, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

With reported cases of workplace violence rising, healthcare facilities must know what to do in a dangerous situation. There are two strategies leaderships can adopt so that their facilities stay safe for their employees, and those two are risk assessments and threat assessments.  

Risk assessments are done by gathering information on the incidence of violence in certain demographics. That is so there is a full understanding of what risks are present at the time of assessment. Whereas threat assessments are the process of rounding up information to determine what the potential for violence is. 

Both effective risk assessments and threat assessments each have four key components to them, as outlined by an AHA case study

Risk assessments 

  • Identify the risk  
  • Analyze the risk  
  • Control, transfer or mitigate the risk  
  • Monitor risk control measures 

Threat assessments 

  • Creating the threat assessment team  
  • Identification of a potential threat  
  • Investigation  
  • Mitigation and management of the threat 

These two assessments are not the only measures healthcare facilities can take to ensure safety, though. For example, training is another crucial part of an effective safety program.  

However, some healthcare leaders may be wondering where to start with their training. As Lisa Terry, vice president of vertical markets-healthcare with Allied Universal Security Services, says in her five-step action plan, “Staff training on workplace violence starts with establishing a definition and implementing a process for reporting workplace violence.” 

Risk assessments and threat assessments can play a role in this process through helping identify the potential issues at hand. Once the risks and threats are known, then the workplace can begin developing a process for reporting violence. If nobody knows what these incidents and threats look like, there is no real way for staff to report on them. 

While legislation is being reviewed and processed, healthcare facilities can take steps on their own to help reduce violence in the workplace.  Overall, multiple stakeholders are involved in combatting the tide of workplace violence in healthcare. 

Jeff Wardon, Jr. is the assistant editor for the facilities market.  

September 22, 2023

Topic Area: Safety

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