Employees of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., were exposed to head, eye, face and groin injuries and intimidation and threats during routine interactions with patients and visitors, OSHA alleges.
The medical center faces $78,000 in fines for failing to protect its employees against workplace violence, after OSHA’s Manhattan office launched an inspection in February. A complaint triggered the inspection.
OSHA said it found approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence reported between Feb. 7 and April 12. The incidents involved employees who were threatened or physically and verbally assaulted by patients and visitors, or were breaking up altercations between patients, according to OSHA.
The most serious incident was the Feb.7 assault of a nurse, who sustained severe brain injuries when she was attacked while working.
“Brookdale management was aware of these incidents and did not take effective measures to prevent assaults against its employees,” said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. “The facility’s workplace violence program was ineffective, with many employees unaware of its purpose, specifics or existence.”
OSHA cited Brookdale for one willful violation, with a proposed fine of $70,000, for allegedly failing to develop and implement adequate measures to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of physical violence and assaults against employees by patients or visitors.
"The hazard of violence against employees is well-recognized in the health care industry and known to this employer," said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Brookdale must actively and effectively implement a workplace violence prevention program immediately to ensure the safety and well-being of its workers.”
OSHA cited and fined the medical center $8,000 for failing to correctly review and certify the OSHA 300A illness and injury reporting form and for not providing forms when requested by the authorized employee representative.
According to OSHA, elements of an effective workplace violence prevention program could include:
- Administrative controls, including jobsite hazard assessment; evaluation of existing controls; implementation of new policies and procedures; and incident reviews.
- Engineering controls, including installing panic alarm systems and protective barriers, and configuring treatment areas to maximize an employee’s ability to escape workplace violence.
- Personal protective equipment, including personal alarm systems for staff and an appropriate system for contacting security/correctional officers.
- Training encompassing workplace violence prevention; stress management; recognition of the signs of potential violence; and post-incident procedures and services to treat traumatized employees involved in a workplace violence incident.
Guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health and social service workers are available on OSHA’s website.
Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply or contest OSHA’s findings.