OSHA Cites ME Hospital For Inadequate Safeguards

                               Bangor, ME (CompNewsNetwork) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited The Acadia Hospital in Bangor for failing to provide its employees with adequate safeguards against workplace violence. OSHA's action follows an inspection begun in July 2010 in response to worker complaints.

OSHA's inspection identified at least 115 instances between 2008 and 2010 in which employees of the psychiatric hospital and clinic were assaulted on the job by violent patients. As a result, OSHA has cited the hospital for an alleged serious violation of the agency's general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, along with six other-than-serious citations.

"The serious citation points to the clear and pressing need for the hospital to develop a comprehensive, continuous and effective program that will proactively evaluate, identify and prevent conditions that place workers in harm's way," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator.

OSHA's serious citation includes several suggested means of abatement that the hospital can pursue to address the workplace violence issue. These include:

  • Creating a stand-alone written violence prevention program for the entire hospital that includes a workplace violence hazard assessment and security analysis; development of workplace violence controls; a recordkeeping system designed to report any violent incidents; a statement that includes a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence and assigns oversight and prevention responsibilities; and an annual review and updating of the program.

  • Developing workplace violence controls – including administrative and engineering – to prevent potential workplace incidents.

  • Ensuring that all patients are screened for potential violence prior to hospital admittance.

  • Conducting extensive training so that all affected employees are aware of the hospital's workplace violence program and know how to access information about it.

  • Using a system that flags a patient's chart any time there is a history or act of violence and training staff to understand the system.

  • Ensuring that adequate numbers of properly trained security personnel are available to render assistance in an instance of workplace violence.

  • Limiting employees from working alone or in secluded places with patients and configuring the workplace to maximize an employee's ability to escape in the event of violence.

  • Developing and implementing specific actions for employees to take in the event of a workplace violence incident as well as specific procedures for reporting workplace violence incidents to both hospital management and law enforcement authorities.

"Workplace violence is a serious issue affecting many workers and employers across this nation, but it is one that can be addressed if employers take systematic, thorough and continual action," said Kent.

The serious citation carries a proposed fine of $6,300. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The six other-than-serious citations, with a total of $5,400 in fines, are for inadequate or incomplete recording of workplace injuries or illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The Acadia Hospital 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. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Bangor District Office; telephone 207-941-8177.

OSHA's "Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care & Social Service Workers" is available online at
http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3148/osha3148.html. Additional information on workplace violence is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/index.html.

To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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