Workplace Violence: OSHA Findings of "Willful Violation"

On August 11, 2014, OSHA fined Brooklyn-based Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center $78,000 because of dozens of incidents in which patients and visitors assaulted employees, one of which left a nurse with severe brain injuries.  The fine included $70,000 for “willful violation” of workplace safety regulations and $8,000 for not properly reviewing and providing illness and injury reporting forms. Brookdale had cooperated with OSHA's investigation but disputed the finding of a willful violation.

Five days earlier, OSHA had cited Corizon Health, Inc., a New York City contractor providing medical and mental health services to inmates at Rikers Island, for “willful violation” in connection with workplace violence.  Issuing the citation following a 6-month investigation, OSHA said Corizon was aware of “the serious problem of assaults against its employees” and failed to do anything about it.  It fined Corizon $71,000.  Attacks by inmates against Corizon employees, including doctors, nurses and mental health workers, had jumped from eight in 2011 to 39 in 2013, and six assaults occurred between February 11 and May 14 of 2014.  Corizon is contesting the findings.

Several days after announcement of the action against Brookdale, OSHA announced an extension to October 14, 2014, of the comment period on a proposed rule requiring electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.  OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses; 2) more clearly communicate that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer must be reasonable and not unduly burdensome; and 3) provide OSHA additional means to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Sources

1.  Herman , B., “OSHA fines New York hospital over workplace violence,” Modern Healthcare, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.

2.  Schwirtz, M., “Rikers Health Contractor Fined for Worker Assaults,” The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.

3.  “Caring for Our Caregivers: Facts about Hospital Worker Safety,” U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA. Sept. 2013. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.

4.  “Comment period extended on proposed rule to improve tracking of workplace injury and illnesses,” OSHA Quick Takes, 15 Aug. 2014, Vol. 13:16. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.