Stephanie Ross, a mental health coordinator from Lakeland, Fla., was afraid of her client, Lucious Smith. Smith had a history of criminal activity and was known for exhibiting violent behavior. On Dec. 10, 2012, Ross was tasked by her employer, Integra Health Management, to visit Smith for a required face-to-face hospitalization risk assessment in which mental health professionals encourage patients to seek medical and psychological care and to take prescribed medications.
During that home visit, Smith stabbed Ross. She ran out of his house, screaming, and he chased her down and stabbed her over and over again. She later died at a local hospital.
In citing the company, OSHA made note of the fact that Ross had notified her employer of her concerns regarding Smith. "This incident could have been prevented if the employer had a comprehensive, written, workplace violence prevention program to address hazards and assist employees when they raise concerns about their safety," said Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional administrator for the Southeast.
The agency issued a serious safety violation for exposing employees to incidents of violent behavior by a patient that resulted in death. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Integra also has been issued an other-than-serious violation for failing to report Ross’ death as a workplace fatality. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
The citations for the serious and other-than-serious violations carry $10,500 in proposed penalties. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with Harrison or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Dee Brown, Integra's chief operating officer, told The Ledger newspaper that Integra plans to contest the citations. "We continue to feel, and have always felt, that we are in compliance with OSHA standards," she told reporter Clifford Parody. "We exceed their requirements. There's really not a story here."
Smith was charged with first-degree murder and has been ruled unfit to stand trial. He is committed to a state mental hospital for the time being.