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An Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) administrative law judge affirmed July 1, 2015, that the employer of a murdered social service worker failed to protect her from workplace violence.
Judge Dennis Phillips determined that Integra Health Management, now operating as Integra ServiceConnect LLC, did not protect Stephanie Ross, a 24-year-old social service coordinator, from being fatally stabbed in December 2012 by a client with severe mental illness and a violent criminal history. Still a new hire, Ross had prior meetings with the man and recorded in her case notes that she was uncomfortable being alone with him. She was meeting the patient for a required face-to-face hospitalization risk assessment, a typical part of her job, when she was assaulted and killed outside the patient’s home.
OSHA cited Integra and proposed $10,500 in penalties for failing to adequately protect employees from the risk of violence.
“The safety of social service workers in the field is a serious concern,” said Leslie Grove, OSHA’s Tampa Area Office director. “Many face threats and violence in the workplace. Integra put its workers at risk of injury or worse by choosing not to implement commonly recognized safety practices and protocols,” such as having a written, comprehensive, workplace violence prevention program, she said.
Phillips found that Integra should have taken more precautions to prevent injury and death by hiring and training its employees appropriately. OSHA investigators found Integra knew the assailant had exhibited several high-risk behaviors including a history of violence, criminal behavior, schizophrenia and paranoia, “but took no steps to protect its employee.”
The agency also discovered multiple incidents where Integra employees were “victims of aggression and verbal and physical threats from clients,” but Integra neglected to conduct a hazard assessment of the employees’ positions or develop a written program to prevent workplace violence hazards.
On June 25, 2015, OSHA announced that it was broadening its inspections of health care facilities to focus on workplace violence, among other hazards.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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