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Foxx Opposes Democrats' Shortsighted Workplace Violence Bill

This morning, the House is debating H.R. 1309, shortsighted legislation that will likely impose many unintended consequences on health care and social services workplaces, and inflict a costly mandate on health care providers.

On the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Republican Leader of the Education and Labor Committee, delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

"I rise today in opposition to H.R. 1309, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act. American workers deserve to be kept out of harm’s way while on the job, allowing them to return home to their families and loved ones healthy and safe.

"According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, health care and social service workplaces experience the highest rates of workplace violence, totaling 71 percent of all workplace violence injuries in 2017, and these workers are more than four times as likely to suffer a workplace violence injury.

"There is no question that these caregivers deserve meaningful and effective protections, but H.R. 1309 is shortsighted, and it fails to address this important issue in an effective, feasible manner.

"In the Education and Labor Committee’s single hearing on this issue back in February, Members on both sides of the aisle expressed a desire to work together to produce real policy solutions. Committee Republicans believe there can be a bipartisan response to this issue that would aid in the rulemaking process and provide protection to health care and social service workers.

"Instead, Committee Democrats have decided to advance legislation that circumvents the long-established rulemaking process and blocks valuable input from workers and other stakeholders who know better than we do how to prevent workplace violence in these unique circumstances.

"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, the federal agency that helps ensure safe and healthful working conditions, is currently working on a workplace violence prevention rule for health care and social assistance workplaces, which includes gathering important stakeholder input to create the most feasible and effective federal safety and health standard possible.

"However, by requiring OSHA to circumvent established rulemaking procedures under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, H.R. 1309 would undermine and threaten this ongoing collaborative and evidence-based process by denying OSHA the ability to be responsive to important feedback from the public and impacted stakeholders.

"H.R. 1309 severely limits the participation of industry, worker representatives, the scientific community, and the public from having a say in the development of a new comprehensive standard. Democrats are rejecting a thorough response to this complex and highly technical issue that is backed by meaningful input.

"Furthermore, this legislation turns a blind eye to comprehensive research and data. Currently, there is no agreed-upon set of policies to prevent and mitigate workplace violence for health care and social service workers, and researchers in the field have pointed out the need for additional studies to determine the most effective response.

"In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said further research was needed to identify effective strategies that prevent workplace violence in health care and social service settings.

"Additionally, in 2016, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted there have been a limited number of studies done on the effectiveness of workplace violence prevention programs, and GAO chose not to call on OSHA to establish a standard without further study.    

"Continuing with their record of rushed and haphazard legislating, Democrats are pushing a false sense of urgency with H.R. 1309. This bill wrongly implies that Congress should impose a swift and sweeping standard immediately, ignoring that OSHA is already enforcing workplace violence prevention. In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upheld penalties issued by OSHA under the general duty clause against health care facilities for not adequately addressing workplace violence.

"I’ll remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that according to a 2018 American Hospital Association survey, 97 percent of respondents indicated they already have workplace violence policies in place. To make matters even worse, H.R. 1309 mandates yet another costly and burdensome regulation.

"Simply put, financially-struggling health care facilities such as rural hospitals and small businesses cannot afford another costly Congressionally-imposed mandate from Washington.

"Democrats will argue they didn’t intend for the bill to have such a large scope and to cost so much. What else didn’t they intend to happen when they rushed through this process, forcing an overly prescriptive mandate on the public?

"Mr. Speaker, Republicans are committed to ensuring that health care and social service workers are protected from workplace violence. There is bipartisan support for OSHA’s current efforts to create a standard on workplace violence prevention. However, Congress should aid in the rulemaking process, not circumvent it as H.R. 1309 does. 

"H.R. 1309 will likely have many unintended consequences which negatively impact health care and social services workplaces in addition to imposing a costly mandate on health care providers. I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing this unnecessary legislation, so we can get to work on a bipartisan solution."

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