OSHA Imposes $98,000 Fine On Home Health Care Company For Failing to Protect Nurses From Workplace Assaults
Posted on: Friday, August 19th, 2016
On July 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a citation and imposed a fine of $98,000.00 on national home health care provider Epic Health Services for failing to protect its workers from physical and sexual assaults during patient interactions. The citation and fine followed an investigation of the Dallas-based home care provider that began in February 2016 when an employee reported that she was sexually assaulted by a patient while conducting a nursing visit in the patient’s home.
In the four-month investigation that followed, OSHA inspectors determined that Epic had failed to act on numerous prior reports of verbal, physical, and sexual assaults on its employees, as well as a report that an employee had been required to work in a house in which domestic violence was occurring. The inspectors also found that Epic maintained no system of reporting threats or incidents of violence at the hands of patients and patients’ family members and cited the company for failing to record injuries properly on OSHA forms.
According to OSHA regional administrator Richard Mendelson, “Epic Health Services failed to protect its employees from life-threatening hazards of workplace violence and failed to provide an effective workplace violence prevention program.”
Based on these findings, OSHA cited Epic for a willful violation relating to its failure to maintain a safe workplace under OSHA’s General Duty Clause. OSHA defines a willful violation as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
The citation issued to Epic includes a number of suggested measures that Epic could implement to mitigate the risk of workplace violence issues, including the development of:
- a written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention and training program;
- a workplace violence risk-assessment and security procedures for each new client;
- procedures to control for workplace violence risks, such as an employee’s right to refuse to provide home care services in a clearly hazardous situation without fear of retaliation;
- procedures to be taken in the event a violent incident occurs, including incident reports and investigation protocols; and
- a system for employees to report all threats and instances of workplace violence, regardless of severity.
OSHA has previously underscored the risk of workplace violence in the healthcare industry, and particularly in the home health care setting where patient-provider interactions routinely occur in an uncontrolled work environment, i.e., the patient’s home.
Home health care companies and other similar providers should be aware that OSHA may impose hefty penalties on employers that do not adequately protect employees from workplace violence or that otherwise fail to maintain effective systems of prevention and reporting. Such employers are encouraged to review their current practices to ensure that the risk of workplace violence is being sufficiently mitigated.
This advisory is for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances.