The men and women who work hard to save our lives when we need it—doctors, nurses, EMTs—need our protection to stay safe on the job. We invite you to join the Healthy Me PA community in supporting legislation that would help keep health care workers safe from harm in the workplace.
Health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and similar settings are four times more likely to be a victim of violence than other workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the bureau states that, of the 18,400 serious injuries reported in private industry in 2017, 71 percent were generated from the health care and social assistance sector. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration counts serious workplace violence as incidents requiring days off from work.
Health care workers can face violence from disgruntled patients, distraught family members, and upset friends, or they can become victims in domestic disputes. Bills that have been moving through the Legislature would extend protections to these workers, and they need our support if they’re to become law.
One proposal, introduced in the House and Senate, would allow for the omission of employees’ last names from hospital name badges. This would make it more difficult for ill-intentioned patients to harass or stalk hospital employees.
In the House, the measures are House Bill 1880, introduced by Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York), and House Bill 39, introduced by Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Greene). Their companion legislation is Senate Bill 842, introduced by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), which the Senate approved and sent to the House. House Bill 1880 won House approval and is now in the Senate.
Additional legislation would increase the penalty for an assault on a health care practitioner while on duty. Instead of a misdemeanor, as it is now for some health care professionals, it would be a felony. Those measures are Senate Bill 351, introduced by Sen. Judy Ward (R-Blair), and House Bill 1879, introduced by Gillespie. The Senate approved Ward’s bill; the House approved Gillespie’s measure. Both await action in the other chamber.
Pennsylvania law requires hospital employees to display their first and last names on ID badges. That makes the employees an easy target for in-person or online stalking, because anyone can do a quick social media or internet search and find personal information. Eliminating the last name from a badge won’t preclude the danger, but it’s a large step forward in ensuring our health care workers’ safety.
The bill stiffening penalties for assaults simply extends existing law to a broader range of health care practitioners. State law provides this protection to EMS personnel, doctors, residents, nurses, paramedics, and other members of the health care community. The new legislation would cover other health care practitioners, including everyone from social workers and pharmacists to athletic trainers and respiratory therapists.
Our health care workers strive to deliver excellent care to their patients, and they shouldn’t have to work under constant fear of personal danger. It’s time to provide these employees the workplace protection they deserve.
Join Healthy Me PA in supporting our health care workers. Contact your state representative and senator today, and ask them to support these health care workplace safety bills.