Judge rules for OSHA: Company failed to protect murdered employee from workplace violence
An administrative law judge has affirmed OSHA’s finding that Integra Health Management - now operating as Integra ServiceConnect LLC – failed to protect an employee from workplace violence, which lead to her death.
The ruling of Judge Dennis Phillips of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commision stems from the horrific murder of 24-year-old Stephanie Ross, a Florida health care worker in 2012. Ross, who’d been on the job only three months, was fatally stabbed by a mentally ill client who had a violent criminal history.
Uncomfortable with him
Ross had prior meetings with the man and recorded in her case notes that she was uncomfortable being alone with him.
Like other social service coordinators, Ross visited dangerous and violent clients in their homes and coordinated case management. To perform mental and physical health assessments, she transported clients in her vehicle.
OSHA investigators found Integra knew the assailant had exhibited several high-risk behaviors - including a history of violence, criminal behavior, schizophrenia and paranoia - but took no steps to protect its employee. The agency also discovered multiple incidents where Integra employees were victims of aggression and verbal and physical threats from clients. OSHA concluded that the company did not conduct a hazard assessment of the service coordinator position or develop a written program to prevent workplace violence hazards.
Company contested citations
Investigators issued two serious citations with full penalties to Integra in March 2013 for failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace and not reporting Ross' death to OSHA. The company contested the citations that went before the commission for review. Judge Phillips found that Integra's approach to safety was inadequate, and the company should have taken precautions to prevent injury by hiring and training its employees appropriately. The citations bring penalties of $10,500.
"The safety of social service workers in the field is a serious concern. Many face threats and violence in the workplace. Integra put its workers at risk of injury or worse by choosing not to implement commonly recognized safety practices and protocols," said Leslie Grove, OSHA's director of the Tampa Area Office. "Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect employees against safety and health hazards in the workplace, including physical assaults."
A recent change
In future health care industry inspections, OSHA announced recently that it would expand its enforcement resources to focus on workplace violence and other safety and health risks.
Based in Owings Mills, Maryland, Integra Health Management is a health care service company specializing in community-based nonclinical support for individuals with health care and related social service needs. Integra contracts with insurance companies to perform mental and physical health assessments and coordinates case management for high-risk, high-cost members. It operates in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida.