In 2013, social worker Stephanie Ross conducted a risk assessment for a client with a history of violence. During the meeting, the client stabbed Ross to death. OSHA fined her employer, which contested the citations. A court just decided those fines were justified.
OSHA said Integra Service Connect LLC based in Owings Mills, MD, violated the agency’s General Duty Clause (GDC) by failing to protect Ross and other workers from recognized hazards. The company contested the citations, but the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission sided with OSHA and let the $10,500 fine stand.
“The safety of social service workers in the field is a serious concern. Many face threats and violence in the workplace. Integra put its workers at risk of injury or worse by choosing not to implement commonly recognized safety practices and protocols,” said Leslie Grove, OSHA’s director of the Tampa Area Office. “Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect employees against safety and health hazards in the workplace, including physical assaults.”
Company didn’t address violence hazards
Ross had only been on the job for three months. She frequently visited clients in their homes and transported them in her vehicle. She’d visited her attacker on previous occasions and wrote in her case notes she wasn’t comfortable meeting with him one-on-one. In late 2012, the client stabbed Ross to death during a meeting in his home.
OSHA said Integra was aware of the workplace violence hazards Ross and other social workers faced, but it failed to take action to protect them. It knew Ross’ client had a history of violence and criminal behavior, along with schizophrenia and paranoia.
During their investigation, OSHA inspectors found other instances where Integra workers suffered verbal and physical assaults from clients, yet the company failed to conduct a hazard assessment for service coordinators or implement a workplace violence prevention plan.
OSHA zeroes in on violence in health care
OSHA has made no secret it’s targeting workplace violence hazards in healthcare facilities and using the GDC to issue fines when companies don’t do enough to protect workers.
The agency recently released guidelines for preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings.
And when organizations come up short in protecting workers from potential violence, OSHA is forcing them to implement those guidelines.
Case in point: In a recent settlement, Corizon Health Inc. agreed to implement several of OSHA’s recommendations from the guidance doc. But the company, which provides healthcare and dental services to prisons, must also:
- appoint a senior official to oversee the compliance process and make sure it adheres to the settlement agreement and OSHA’s standards
- allow OSHA to inspect the facilities to check up on compliance
- coordinate better with local correction departments or other agencies that work with Corizon facilities, and
- pay a fine of $38,000.
What do you think of the court’s decision and OSHA’s recent focus on workplace violence in healthcare settings? Let us know in the comments section below.