Work it Out Blog

Workplace Violence Leads to OSHA Citations

Sep 16, 2015

Discussions of workplace safety generally invoke images of dangerous machinery, slippery floors, and personal protective equipment.  One workplace danger that is often placed on the back-burner is workplace violence.  Aggression between employees, or employees and third parties, may seem like more of a disciplinary or security issue than a worker safety issue.  However, employers can be cited, and fined, by OSHA when violence creates a workplace hazard.  When it comes to workplace violence, OSHA is keeping a particularly close eye on healthcare facilities.

A hospital in New Jersey was recently cited by OSHA for failing to keep its workplace free of hazards after several employees were assaulted by patients.  The violent incidents include:

  • A nurse was attacked by a patient, who then bit and kicked an intervening security guard;
  • A nurse was punched in the face when she attempted to stop an altercation between two patients;
  • A phlebotomist was punched in the face by a patient during a consented blood draw;
  • A nurse was pushed to the floor, sustaining bruises and cuts, while trying to stop one patient from attacking another;
  • A nurse was injured when a patient threw a nursing station telephone at her head;
  • A mental health assistant was barricaded inside a room with a patient after the patient threatened employees with a sharp pencil;
  • A nurse was punched by a patient as she escorted the patient to a seclusion room; and
  • A physician was bitten by a patient and exposed to blood borne pathogens.

These citations, accompanied by a proposed penalty of $13,600, were issued only a few months after workplace violence was identified as one of four key hazards for OSHA inspectors to focus on in the healthcare setting.  The key hazards also include blood borne pathogens; tuberculosis, and slips, trips and falls.  Greater scrutiny is expected in these areas during all OSHA inspections.

All employers, including nursing homes and hospitals, should review their workplace violence policies. An effective workplace violence program will keep employees safe, and reduce the potential for increased workers’ compensation costs and OSHA citations.

Contact Michelle Reese or your Day Ketterer attorney, at 330-455-0173 or info@dayketterer.com, for assistance in determining whether your facility is in compliance with OSHA standards.

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.