2 New State Laws to Protect Health Care Workers from Violence Took Effect on Aug. 30

Last Updated: Sep 1, 2020

medical-team-emergency-roomAccording to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers in health care settings face significant risks of workplace violence. OSHA found that, between 2002 to 2013, the rate of serious workplace violence incidents was more than four times higher in health care than in private industry.

On July 1, 2020, Gov. Wolf signed two bills that aim to protect health care workers from violence. 

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) advocated for physicians in support of both bills. Here is an overview of each new law.

Adding Health Care Workers as a Protected Class Under State Law

Senate Bill 351 (and now known as Act 51 of 2020), introduced by Sen. Judy Ward on behalf of PAMED, adds “health care practitioners” as a protected class in the event of an assault.  

Prior to the law's passage, Pennsylvania law provided protection for EMS personnel, such as doctors, residents, interns, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and several other professions who work in emergency services. However, it did not include “health care practitioners.” The new law classifies an assault on a health care practitioner as a felony.

Allowing a Health Care Worker’s Last Name to Be Omitted from ID Badge

Senate Bill 842 (now known as Act 54 of 2020), introduced by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, strengthens protections for health care workers by allowing an employee’s last name to be omitted from an identification badge.

The new law also amends the state’s Health Care Facilities Act by adding the following provision concerning employees who have the same first name:

A notation, marker or indicator included on an identification badge that differentiates employees with the same first name is considered acceptable in lieu of displaying an employee's last name.

In a memo concerning SB 842, Sen. Phillips-Hill said that while previous state law governing ID badges is well-meaning, it has enabled patients to stalk, threaten, and harass health care workers both inside and outside the workplace.

What’s Next

Both laws took effect on Aug. 30, 2020.

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