OSHA Settlement Requires N.Y. Facility to Commit to Safeguarding against Workplace Violence

OSHA has reached a settlement with the Renaissance Project regarding a workplace violence citation issued under the General Duty clause to the Ellenville, N.Y., treatment facility, which agreed to enhance employee safety.

OSHA reached the settlement agreement with the Renaissance Project Inc. that resolves litigation stemming from citations and penalties issued to the substance abuse treatment facility that not only affirms the citations, but also commits the facility to taking steps to better safeguard its employees against workplace violence.

"Workplace violence is a serious, recognized occupational hazard, ranking among the top four causes of death in workplaces during the past 15 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Violent incidents can be avoided or decreased if employers take appropriate precautions to protect their workers."

In April, OSHA's Albany Area Office cited the Renaissance Project for a serious violation of the agency’s General Duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death because the employer had not developed and implemented adequate safeguards against workplace violence for its employees. An incident in October 2010 occurred in which an untrained security guard, working alone, was fatally stabbed by a client.

Under the settlement, in addition to correcting the conditions cited as a result of OSHA's inspection, the Renaissance Project has agreed to institute a number of measures that OSHA believes will eliminate or materially reduce similar incidents of workplace violence from occurring in the future.

"The Renaissance Project pledges to enact effective safeguards to prevent and minimize the possibility of its employees being killed or injured in the performance of their duties," said Edward Jerome, OSHA's area director in Albany. "We fully expect this employer to follow through on this vital commitment."

The additional steps agreed to by the Renaissance Project include:

· Creating a written workplace violence prevention program similar to those in place at comparable state-run facilities that includes implementation of workplace controls and prevention strategies, hazard/threat/security assessments, incident reporting and investigation and periodic review of the prevention program.
· Establishing a system to identify clients with assaultive behavior problems and train all staff to understand the system used.
· Ensuring adequate staffing levels at the facility at all times.
· Conducting more extensive training so that all employees are aware of the facility's workplace violence policy, as well as how to respond during a workplace violence incident, recognize when individuals are exhibiting aggressive behavior and de-escalate the behavior.
· Conducting regular site-specific workplace violence hazard analyses to identify and address any workplace violence hazards identified.

Earlier this year, OSHA launched a new Web page on Preventing Workplace Violence, and has published several guidance documents including "Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Worker" and "Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments."

As part of the settlement agreement, the Renaissance Project also agreed to correct other conditions relating to hazard communication and bloodborne pathogens that were cited as a result of OSHA’s inspection, and to pay fines of $17,290 for all of the violations. The case was litigated for OSHA by Attorney Andrew Karonis of the department's Office of the Regional Solicitor in New York.

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