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ASSP Comments on PAW Act and Workplace Violence Legislation

Apr 30, 2019

PARK RIDGE, Illinois — The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), a leading occupational safety and health organization representing more than 38,000 members worldwide, has submitted detailed technical comments on two legislative proposals that would help protect U.S. workers in healthcare and other industries.

ASSP submitted a letter to House of Representatives sponsors of H.R.1309 that aims to prevent workplace violence in the healthcare and social services industries. The legislation would mandate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a standard that requires employers to implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.

“Healthcare workers face an increased risk of violence on the job, and bipartisan congressional action is needed to help solve this serious problem,” said ASSP President Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP. “Three years ago, OSHA issued a request for information on workplace violence prevention, but we are not aware of any further action despite workplace violence becoming a greater hazard across the country.”

A 2016 study by the Government Accountability Office reported that rates of violence against healthcare workers can be 12 times higher than rates for the overall workforce, and 70 percent of nonfatal workplace assaults occurred in the healthcare and social assistance sectors. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that healthcare and social service workers suffered 69 percent of all workplace violence injuries in 2016.

Growing concerns over workplace violence and its disproportionate effect on women workers was a topic during ASSP’s Women’s Workplace Safety Summit held last October near Chicago. ASSP followed up with a report this spring, publishing “Women and Safety in the Modern Workplace.” The summit and the report were sponsored by Amazon.

ASSP also submitted a statement to several members of the House regarding the Protecting America’s Workers (PAW) Act. The H.R.1074 bill calls for the amendment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 in several ways that ASSP supports.

The PAW Act would expand federal OSHA coverage to public sector workers – 8.5 million of whom are without enforceable workplace safety protections in 24 states. It also proposes enhanced whistleblower protections by extending reporting statutes from 30 days to 180 days, in addition to requiring OSHA to update national consensus standards that lag behind current versions and don’t reflect best practices for protecting workers.

“We live in a rapidly changing world, so it’s important for standards to be consistently revised to match current best practices,” Medina said. “Consensus standards reflect a collective technical expertise that considers the latest industry developments in addressing workplace hazards.”

But the PAW Act would also restore the 2016 e-recordkeeping rule, which ASSP has expressed concern with in the past and believes is better addressed by OSHA and through the court system. ASSP also recommended that the legislation integrate total worker health into OSHA programs, codify the voluntary protection programs, shift to a risk-based approach to safety and health management, and expand third-party auditing.

“We look forward to assisting our elected leaders in modifying and advancing these critical legislative proposals while providing more information as warranted, including testifying at any future hearings,” Medina said. “It’s all about working together to prevent worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”

About ASSP – Working together for a safer, stronger future
For more than 100 years, the American Society of Safety Professionals has been at the forefront of helping occupational safety and health professionals protect people and property. The nonprofit society is based in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Its global membership of over 38,000 professionals covers every industry, developing safety and health management plans that prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths. ASSP advances its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards and a professional community. Its flagship publication, Professional Safety, is a longtime leader in the field. Visit www.assp.org and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Media contact: Blaine Krage, 847.768.3416, bkrage@assp.org

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