Can workplace violence risk be reduced in prisons?
Miss. company ordered to increase staffing, fix cell door locks
A company that operates 50 correctional facilities in the U.S. has agreed to take steps to reduce the potential for its employees to be injured by workplace violence, under a corporate-wide settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor.
The GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., says it will implement comprehensive procedures and policies to better safeguard its workers against the hazards of workplace violence in every correctional and adult detention facility that it manages in the nation.
First of its kind for corrections industry
"This corporate-wide settlement agreement will have a far-reaching effect and impact on correctional officers and other staff nationwide," said Teresa A. Harrison, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta. "This agreement is the first of its kind in the corrections industry that addresses the hazards associated with workplace violence."
Broken locks, lack of PPE
In June 2012, OSHA cited the company for workplace safety violations at a prison facility it managed in Meridian, Miss. These violations included a willful violation for the company's failure to: provide adequate staffing of correctional officers; fix malfunctioning cell door locks; and provide required training and personal protective equipment to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites and other injuries.
According to the Geo Group website; "GEO offers a safe and secure work environment, competitive compensation and benefits, employee incentives and recognition, and extensive training."
The company contested the citation to the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.
Workplace violence coordinator
Under the three-year agreement, the willful citation has been reclassified as a serious violation and the company will pay a $13,600 fine. Additionally, the company is required to hire a third-party consultant to develop and maintain a workplace violence prevention program and conduct onsite workplace violence safety audits at each of the 42 correctional and adult detention facilities that it manages across the country. They will also need to create a corporate-level workplace violence coordinator position and develop a workplace safety committee at each of these facilities. In those unionized facilities covered under the agreement, the committees will include representatives from both labor and management.