A report commissioned by OSHA says a facility that suffered a mass shooting in 2012 didn’t put enough emphasis on protecting its employees from attacks.
The report on the March 8, 2012, shootings at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) says workplace violence prevention efforts are completely overshadowed by patient safety at the hospital.
Michael Shick shot and killed a therapist and wounded five others at the facility before police fatally shot him. Shick wasn’t a patient at the hospital, but he had “interacted” with UPMC’s mental health system.
The report was obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Despite the criticism contained in the report, OSHA decided to issue no citations to the facility. Instead, OSHA sent an Advisory Letter with suggestions to upgrade UPMC’s workplace violence prevention program.
UPMC says all recommendations have either been or are in the process of being implemented.
Incidents were rising
The report to OSHA, written by Jane Lipscomb, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, didn’t focus solely on the shooting. Instead, it looked at the everyday violence experienced by UPMC employees.
There were 75 incidents of patient-related staff injures in 2011, up from 48 in 2010, a 56% increase.
For the first four months of 2012, there were 39 incidents — that’s when the shootings occurred. Extrapolated to an entire year, the hospital was on track for another 56% increase in incidents compared to 2011. UPMC wasn’t able to provide total-year figures to the Post-Gazette.
The report recommends “in-depth tracking and review of the circumstances surrounding these injuries.”
Another interesting conclusion from the report: “There continues to be a strong reluctance to recognize the problem of workplace violence for fear of stigmatizing the potential perpetrators of the violence, in particular the mentally ill and developmentally disabled … Policies and practices directed toward preventing staff assaults benefits patients.”
The relationship between mental illness and violence is an issue also surrounding the Newtown school massacre.