Dozens of assaults on workers by patients at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, ME led to OSHA citations for failing to provide its employees with adequate safeguards against workplace violence.

An OSHA inspection prompted by worker complaints found at least 115 instances between 2008 and 2010 in which employees of the psychiatric hospital and clinic were assaulted on the job by violent patients. As a result, OSHA cited the hospital for an alleged serious violation of the agency's general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious injury, along with six other-than-serious citations.

"The serious citation points to the clear and pressing need for the hospital to develop a comprehensive, continuous and effective program that will proactively evaluate, identify and prevent conditions that place workers in harm's way," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator.

To address the issue, OSHA recommended that the hospital;
  • Create a violence prevention program that assesses hazards, develops violence controls, sets up a recordkeeping system for reporting violent incidents, adopts a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence, assigns oversight responsibilities and reviews the program features annually.
  • Develops workplace violence controls – both administrative and engineered – to prevent potential workplace incidents.
  • Ensures that all patients are screened for potential violence prior to hospital admittance.
  • Conducts extensive training so that all affected employees are aware of the hospital's workplace violence program.
  • Uses a system that flags a patient's chart any time there is a history or act of violence.
  • Ensures that adequate numbers of properly trained security personnel are available to render assistance in an instance of workplace violence.
  • Limits employees from working alone with patients and configure the workplace to maximize an employee's ability to escape in the event of violence.
"Workplace violence is a serious issue affecting many workers and employers across this nation, but it is one that can be addressed if employers take systematic, thorough and continual action," said Kent.

The serious citation carries a proposed fine of $6,300. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The six other-than-serious citations, with a total of $5,400 in fines, are for inadequate or incomplete recording of workplace injuries or illnesses. 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.