New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) - Corizon Health Inc., which provides medical, dental and psychiatric services to inmates at the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City, knowingly failed to protect its employees adequately against workplace violence and assault, an inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. The company faces $71,000 in fines following an inspection by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office that began Feb. 7, 2014, in response to a complaint.
OSHA cited Corizon for one willful violation for failing to develop and implement an effective workplace violence prevention program for its employees at Rikers. A willful violation is one committed with intentional or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"Corizon failed to address the serious problem of assaults against its employees until OSHA began its inspection," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Corizon needs to develop and implement an effective, targeted workplace violence prevention program that includes administrative and engineering control, as well as personal protective equipment and training, to reduce the risk of violence against its employees."
OSHA found that the number of workplace violence incidents involving Corizon medical, dental and psychiatric employees at Rikers increased from eight in 2011 to 39 in 2013. In addition, during the course of OSHA's investigation, six workplace-violence-related incidents occurred between Feb. 11 and May 14, 2014. These included threats, physical assault, a Corizon employee locked in a cell by an inmate and the circulation of a hit list of Corizon staffers targeted by inmates.
"Corizon was aware of the workplace violence incidents; its employees lost more than 280 days of work in 2013 and 2014 due to workplace violence incidents. Yet the issue has not been addressed sufficiently," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA's assistant regional administrator in New York. "For the safety and well-being of Corizon's employees at Rikers, effective change is necessary and needed now."
Elements of an effective workplace violence prevention program could include, but may not be limited to:
Administrative controls, including job site hazard assessment, evaluation of existing controls, implementing new policies, procedures and incident reviews.
Engineering controls, including the installation of panic alarm systems and protective barriers, and configuring treatment areas to maximize an employee's ability to escape from workplace violence.
Personal protective equipment, such as personal alarm systems for all staff, and an appropriate system and way to contact security/correctional officers.
Training encompassing workplace violence prevention, stress management, recognition of signs of potential violence and post-incident procedures and services to treat employees traumatized by a workplace violence incident.
Corizon also was cited and fined $1,000 for failing to review and certify correctly the OSHA 300A illness and injury reporting form.
Corizon, with corporate headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, and operational headquarters in St. Louis, provides medical, dental and psychiatric services to 115 clients at 552 correctional facilities. It has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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