Pamela Knight, a child protective investigator with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service (DCFS), was sent to check on the welfare of a child last fall. When she arrived at the child’s residence, the father viciously attacked her. She died months later as a result of the injuries she sustained during the attack.
Countless AFSCME members put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities with the same dedication and bravery that Sister Knight, a member of AFSCME Local 448 (Council 31), showed throughout her career. Her tragic story is emblematic of a much larger problem of workplace violence.
According to an April 2018 report titled “Death on the Job, The Toll of Neglect, 2018” issued by the AFL-CIO, “Workplace violence is a major problem that is getting worse for workers in the United States. It is now the second-leading cause of death on the job and the fourth-leading cause of nonfatal injury. … In 2016, one in every six work-related deaths was attributed to workplace violence.”
Those facts, however, may represent only a fraction of the problem, since workplace violence is also frequently underreported.
Health care workers in particular face frequent workplace violence, in addition to the many other vital jobs that AFSCME members perform. While AFSCME has long fought to raise awareness and to stem workplace violence, more laws need to be passed to reverse the dangerous trend of rising workplace violence.
That is why AFSCME is a strong backer of a new bill, “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act,” which has been introduced by Reps. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Joe Courtney of Connecticut.
The bill would help protect hospital, psychiatric, behavioral health care, EMS workers and others by requiring the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to issue a federal worker-protection standard. This would require employers in the health care and social service fields to adopt plans aimed at protecting their employees from workplace violence.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders said: “We applaud Congressmen Scott and Courtney for pressing for a federal OSHA standard that calls on employers to identify clear patterns and risk factors that put mental health professionals, hospital and EMS workers, and too many others at a high risk of experiencing workplace violence.”
Saunders added, “AFSCME members in these professions work hard every day to make their communities healthier and stronger, and for that they deserve respect and protection on the job.”