It sounds like a horror movie. The setting is Rikers Island correctional facility in New York and the opening scene shows a group of inmates gathered around a cell where an employee has been locked up while other inmates pass around a “hit list” of additional employees.
Only in this case, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab, it’s not fiction, it was real. He calls it the “daily reality for a group of medical, dental and psychiatric professionals contracted by Corizon Health Inc. to provide services at Rikers Island” in a post to the National Law Review.
“These employees are threatened, punched in the face, kicked and knocked unconscious with surprising and horrifying regularity,” said Barab, who added that while OSHA investigators were at Rikers to investigate the incident, “an additional six reports of workplace violence were made.”
Barab also tells of another investigation at a medical care facility in New York in which a nurse was attacked at Brookdale University and Medical Center by a patient with a known history of violent behavior. She remains in a coma.
“While other worker injuries were not as severe, over 40 incidents of violence were reported at the facility between February and April,” said Barab in his post. He cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicates that 72 percent of work-related injuries suffered by healthcare workers are from assaults.
“It would be easy to dismiss these as isolated incidents in a large, metropolitan city, but nearly 2 million American workers across the country report incidents of workplace violence every year,” wrote Barab in the National Law Review post, adding, “Many more incidents of workplace violence go unreported.”
Barab said that in both examples he highlighted, OSHA issued willful citations to the employers. “OSHA found that Corizon and Brookdale respectively knew the dangers their workers faced every day, and that employees were being seriously injured as a result. And in both workplaces, there are well-recognized measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of assaults against employees,” he noted. “…Employers must take steps to protect their workers from preventable tragedies.”