Healthcare Center Cited in Workplace Violence Case


OSHA has cited Pioneer Health Care Center of Rocky Ford, Colo., under the General Duty Clause for failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace. The nursing home faces proposed penalties of $9,054.

OSHA said it opened an investigation at the facility in response to two complaints related to workplace violence received in August 2017, and the investigation identified five documented incidents of workplace violence in 2017 that resulted in employee injuries, along with several unreported incidents.

OSHA has issued a serious citation for failing to implement adequate measures to protect employees from workplace violence hazards due to violent behavior by residents — specifically identified in the citation as causing “bites, sprains, broken skin, bruising, scratches, soft tissue trauma, and injuries to the head and torso from punches, kicks, and forceful grabs.”

The citation lists a variety of engineering and work practice controls, as part of a workplace violence prevention program that could be used at the nursing home.

The controls include:

  • Installing security cameras in the common areas;
  • Providing two-way radios and personal panic alarms to certified nursing assistants and other staffers;
  • Encouraging staffers to secure loose hair so it isn’t accessible to residents;
  • Conducting site-specific employee training;
  • Removing unsecured items and bolting furniture (when appropriate) to the floor to prevent these from becoming weapons for residents to use against employees; and
  • Ensuring employees report all assaults or threats to a supervisor or manager.

Healthcare and social service workers are among the most common victims of workplace violence.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as “the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults directed toward persons at work or on duty.”

OSHA defines it as “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data reported healthcare and social assistance workers were the victims of approximately 11,370 assaults by persons; a greater than 13% increase over the number of such assaults reported in 2009.

OSHA believes that a well-written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. It is critical to ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly.

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