NEW YORK -- Employees of Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn were exposed to head, eye, face and groin injuries and intimidation and threats during routine interactions with patients and visitors. The employer failed to protect employees adequately against workplace violence, an inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. The medical center faces $78,000 in fines following an inspection by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office that began Feb. 10, 2014, in response to a complaint.
OSHA found approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence reported between Feb.7 and April 12, 2014. These incidents involved employees who were threatened or physically and verbally assaulted by patients and visitors, or when breaking up altercations between patients. 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. The facility's workplace violence program was ineffective, with many employees unaware of its purpose, specifics or existence,' said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
As a result, OSHA cited Brookdale for one willful violation, with a proposed fine of $70,000, for failing to develop and implement adequate measures to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of physical violence and assaults against employees by patients or visitors. A willful violation is one committed with intentional or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
'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.'
Elements of an effective workplace violence prevention program could include, but not be limited to:
- Administrative controls, including job site hazard assessment, evaluation of existing controls, implementing 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 and way to contact 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.
Brookdale was cited and fined $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.
The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Brookdale.pdf *.
Guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health and social service workers are available at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3148/osha3148.html.
Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Manhattan Area Office at 212-620-3200.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.