With the aging population, home healthcare is rapidly expanding — but worker protections must expand as well to protect employees who may be vulnerable to violence. A recent citation by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) underscores this point, as a company that provides pediatric home health was issued a willful citation and fined $98,000 following the sexual assault of a healthcare worker.
According to an OSHA press release, the agency received a complaint on Feb. 1, 2016, from an employee of Epic Health Services who was sexually assaulted by a home care client. Finding that the company had previously received complaints of verbal, physical, and sexual assaults, OSHA cited the company for a willful violation. OSHA defines a willful violation as one “in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”
In response to a request for comment by Hospital Employee Health, Epic Health Services issued the following statement: “We were disappointed to receive this citation from OSHA and we disagree with the allegations. Epic Health Services cares deeply about our employees and patients, and their safety is paramount to our operations. Epic will continue to cooperate with OSHA regarding this matter and work toward full resolution.”
According to OSHA, the company had no reporting system established for workers subjected to threats and violence.
“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,” Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia, said in the release. The OSHA citation includes a number of “suggested and feasible means of abatement” for Epic Health, including these paraphrased as follows:
- a written, comprehensive workplace violence prevention program and training program,
- workplace violence hazard assessment and security procedures for each new client,
- procedures to control workplace violence, including giving workers the right to refuse to provide care in a clearly hazardous situation, and
- establish a system for tracking and investigating violence that allows employees to report an incident regardless of severity.
An OSHA spokesperson said guidelines to implement the recommendations can be found at: http://bit.ly/1WSQbji.
“There are tools designed and provided to help employers in industries where workplace violence is a significant hazard,” Joanna Hawkins of the OSHA Philadelphia office tells HEH. “Healthcare, including hospitals, is one of these industries. In addition to the guidelines and other links on our page, there are many examples of programs, checklists, etc., available online. Employers with employees at risk for workplace violence need to design programs specific to their needs and their worksites.”
- OSHA. Federal inspectors cite national pediatric health care provider for failing to protect home care workers from physical, sexual assault. July 5, 2016: http://bit.ly/2a0d3eq.
Register today for AHC Media's upcoming webinar, "Violence Prevention in Healthcare: OSHA Requirements" September 27, 2016 at 10am PT, 11am MT, 12pm CT, & 1pm ET.