In a matter highlighting the importance of workplace violence prevention programs, Epic Health Services, a national home health care provider, was recently issued a citation and fine by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) for failing to protect its employees from the dangers of workplace violence. The fine and citation stemmed from a complaint by one of Epic’s nurses, who alleged she was sexually assaulted by a client while providing services in the client’s home.
After an investigation, OSHA determined that the nurse was subjected to physical and sexual assault. The investigation also revealed that Epic had received numerous reports of verbal, physical and sexual assaults on employees, as well as a report of an employee forced to work in a house in which to domestic violence occurred. In addition, OSHA concluded that the employer had no system for reporting threats or incidents of violence in the workplace. For these reasons, OSHA cited the employer for one willful violation for failing to maintain a safe workplace under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. A willful violation is defined by OSHA as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with the legal requirement, purposefully disregarded the requirement or acted with indifference to employee safety. OSHA also cited the employer for a records violation. The citations amounted to a $98,000 fine.
OSHA’s findings highlight the importance of a workplace violence prevention program, particularly for home health care workers who are more vulnerable to workplace violence given their uncontrolled work environment. An effective workplace violence prevention program includes: a well-disseminated policy addressing the prevention of workplace violence; an employee training program; a system for reporting all incidents of workplace violence; management commitment and employee involvement; worksite analysis and hazard identification; corrective action to address any hazards identified; and recordkeeping and program evaluation. As we have reported in the past, OSHA has continued to stress the need for such programs, particularly in the health care industry.