At Brookdale, OSHA found 40 instances of violence from patients and visitors between February and April of this year. Hospital employees faced several forms of physical violence. For example, a patient tripped an employee, injuring the employee's left knee, arms and hands, which resulted in two days away from work.
The most serious incident within OSHA's citation occurred Feb. 7. A patient on the Brooklyn hospital's fifth floor attacked a nurse and repeatedly kicked the nurse in the head, which led to brain damage and “life-threatening injuries.”
“The safety and security of our employees, patients and visitors is and has been our highest priority,” according to Brookdale's statement. “It is completely unacceptable any time a staff member is assaulted while simply doing his or her job to help others.”
“The hazard of workplace violence is a well-known hazard in the healthcare industry,” said Steve Kaplan, an OSHA administrator based in New York. “The question becomes how do these employers, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., react to these hazards? What plans do they develop and implement to reduce or eliminate that hazard?”
OSHA has conducted 114 enforcement inspections related to workplace violence since 2012, Kaplan said. Of those, 75 inspections were conducted at hospitals or other healthcare settings. Fifteen of the healthcare inspections, like the Brookdale case, led to a citation and monetary penalty to address the employers' “inadequate workplace violence program,” he said. Another 31 healthcare inspections resulted in OSHA sending a hazard alert letter, which urges employers to improve their workplace violence program.
OSHA fined Brookdale $70,000 for one “willful violation” of workplace safety regulations and $8,000 for not properly reviewing and providing illness and injury reporting forms. Brookdale said it has cooperated with OSHA's investigation but disputed the agency's finding that it willfully violated any policies.
“We will work through the review process available to employers to correct whatever misinformation led OSHA to issue this citation,” Brookdale said, “but more importantly, we will partner with OSHA to continue improving on our safety and security programs to ensure we provide a safe workplace for our staff and a safe environment for the delivery of the world class healthcare that our patients deserve.”
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