Maine Hospital Fined by OSHA for Not Providing a Safe Workplace

The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine was fined $11,700 by OSHA (Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) on January 26th, 2011 for failing to provide a safe working environment for employees and improperly documenting workplace injuries.

They were referring to the fact that staff at the hospital had been subject to 115 attacks by patients between 2008 and 2010.  The report went on to say, “”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.

OSHA’s report on The Acadia Hospital was at least partially the result of hospital officials making a policy decision to not use restraints on violent patients.   In fact,  Acadia Hospital’s CEO, David Proffitt, Ph.D., was very proud of this policy, saying in a published article in 2010,  “I want to share something I think is very exciting. The last mechanical restraint recorded at The Acadia Hospital was on June 21st, 2009.  This is a big deal.  We set a goal to end mechanical restraints and you have done so. It reflects a commitment to be the best at what we do.  And it gets better…… Our adult rate of restraint has been well below the national mean since May of 2009. . That means we are now in the top 3% of best performing hospitals!  I hope that fact inspires great pride in your self, your co-workers, and this hospital.  I know it does me!”.

Obviously, the no restraints policy wasn’t so great for the nursing staff!

Additionally, the OSHA report ordered the hospital to implement procedures to better protect staff, including screening patients for violent tendencies and offering more staff training on how to use physical restraints, though it did not specifically order the hospital to use them.

In the last eighteen months, OSHA has fined only a handful of hospitals for workplace violence-related incident, including Danbury Hospital, which had a homicide, and Oregon State Hospital in Oregon, which was fined in November 2010 for failing to give staff members self-defense training for dealing with violent patients.

According to The Statesman Journal,  OSHA fined the hospital $3,750 for violating three major safety violations:

  • Failing to provide timely training for staffers to use shields as “a tool to protect employees from projectiles, riots, and to approach patients in order to secure them.”
  • Not reporting to OSHA that a worker was hospitalized in late January after being assaulted by a patient.
  • Lack of written verification showing that a “hazard assessment” had been performed to ensure employees were provided with adequate personal protective equipment.

Looks like OSHA is gearing up to take workplace violence incidents more seriously in the future.   One of the backstories is that hospital employees talk to their unions, and the union leadership contacts OSHA on behalf of the employees.

The increasing problem with workplace violence in hospitals makes it absolutely imperative to start with a comprehensive program to combat and prevent workplace violence.