A medical center faces $78,000 in fines for failing to protect its employees against workplace violence, following an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The investigation revealed that, despite approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence against employees within a two-month period, the medical center failed to take any effective measures to prevent such assaults. According to OSHA, employees were subject to threats, verbal and physical assaults by patients and visitors and injuries while breaking up altercations between patients. The most serious incident resulted in severe brain injuries sustained by a nurse following an attack at work.
The health center was cited for one willful violation — with a proposed fine of $70,000 — for allegedly failing to develop and implement adequate measures to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of physical violence and assaults against employees by patients or visitors. It was also cited and fined $8,000 for failing to correctly review and certify the OSHA 300A form for reporting illness and injuries and for not providing forms when requested by the authorized employee representative.
Despite the well-known risk in the healthcare industry of violence against employees, OSHA claims the health center's workplace-violence training program was ineffective, in large part because many employees were unaware of its purpose, details or even that the program existed.
According to OSHA and other experts, an effective workplace-violence prevention program should include —
Administrative controls to assess the specific risks involved at a particular workplace, evaluate existing controls and policies, update policies and procedures where needed and review all incidents;
A plan of action for responding to acts of workplace violence;
Measures to ensure the physical security of offices and facilities, such as installing panic-alarm systems and protective barriers, and configuring treatment areas to maximize an employee’s ability to escape workplace violence;
The necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job, including personal-alarm systems for staff and an appropriate system for contacting security or correctional officers;
Services to treat traumatized employees involved in an incident of workplace violence; and
Workplace-violence awareness training for employees outlining the warning signs of a potential violent act, how to report any concerns and what to do if violence does occur. Employers are required to protect their customers and provide employees with a safe and healthy working environment.