Be aware that OSHA is continuing to cite healthcare organizations for not protecting their staff from workplace violence.
In the latest announced penalty, an acute care inpatient behavioral health facility in Bradenton, Florida is facing more than $71,000 in fines  for “failing to institute controls to prevent patients from verbal and physical threats of assault, including punches, kicks, and bites; and from using objects as weapons,” according to information released by the U.S. Department of Labor.
OSHA cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., which operates Suncoast Behavioral Health Center in Bradenton, after investigating a complaint that employees were “not adequately protected from violent mental health patients.” The citation, announced May 2, follows the OSHA citation of another UHS subsidiary in 2016 “for a deficient workplace violence program.”
“This citation reflects a failure to effectively address numerous incidents over the past two years resulting in serious injuries to employees of the facility,” said Les Grove, OSHA Tampa Area Office Director, in a published news release .
OSHA, CMS, The Joint Commission (TJC), and other regulators are cracking down on failures to protect workers from violence. TJC issued a Sentinel Event Alert in April  and OSHA is considering proposing a new standard to deal just with workplace violence, which currently is cited under the General Duty clause requiring employers to protect workers from hazards “that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.”
The OSHA citation report offered up a list of problems and potential solutions for Premier Behavioral Health Solutions and UHS to consider. Those solutions included:
- evaluating the configuration of the nurses’ workstations to keep patients from jumping over desks or otherwise gaining access to personnel as well as weapons such as staplers, phones, cords, pens, and computers
- develop a “disruptive behavior response team” and provide that team with “clear written procedures for how employees should respond to clients making threats, showing aggression, and assaults
- evaluate intake procedures to better identify incoming patients with potential for violence
- ensure security cameras are continuously monitored
- provide panic alarms
- discourage employees from wearing necklaces or lanyards that can be used for strangulation, and encourage staffers to secure “loose hair so that it is not accessible to patients, to minimize the risk of neck strains and hair pull injuries”
- to regularly train staff in methods to protect themselves when patients become violent
- conduct effective investigations and root cause analyses into violent events
- establish a comprehensive medical and psychological counseling and debriefing for employees experiencing or witnessing violent assaults or incidents
Premier Behavioral and UHS have 15 business days from when they were notified of the citations and penalties to pay the fines, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
This OSHA citation follows a similar case last year in which a psychiatric treatment center in Massachusetts faced more than $207,000 in proposed penalties  after OSHA accused the facility of failing to adequately protect employees from workplace violence, despite having promised specifically to do so. That center said it was contesting OSHA’s allegations.
In another case, a hospital in New Jersey was able to successfully defend itself against allegations  that it had failed to protect workers from workplace violence.
Editor’s note: This post is from AJ Plunkett, our colleague over at DecisionHealth.