Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Protect employees
Or face OSHA fines


According to an Amy Yurkanin article published under the heading Feds fine Birmingham nonprofit after violent clients attack staff in the web site, OSHA* fined a Birmingham AL social service agency a paltry $7,000 for failing to protect its employees from repeated attacks by its teenage clients.

Although the pittance was for only four incidents in January and February of this year, it claimed that "employees were being injured by violent clients for several years" yet management "took no action to protect their workers."

Editorializing about the fine's amount is mine.

ALTHOUGH AGENCY EXECUTIVES still are mulling whether to fight the OSHA fine, the administration director said that " We have always had provisions in place to protect both the safety of our staff and our residents, and we will continue to do so."

If the OSHA complaint is accurate - the reporter carefully, and properly, added "allegedly failing to protect staff" - then the organization's claim to protect both the safety of our staff lacks veracity.

The thing that is disturbing is OSHA's contention that attacks on "employees were being injured by violent clients" have been recorded for "several years."

The article fails to state what action, if any, the social service agency took to prevent the attacks or if the attacks were reported to police (and if the police and courts DID anything in response).

THE BOTTOM LINE for organizations - and this is in the purview of Risk Management practitioners - is to assure that measures are in place to protect both employees and visitors from attack. That includes physical barriers between employees and clients and restricted entry as well as well-publicized policies and procedures - with ongoing training to assure the P&Ps are understood and followed - to prevent attacks.

I once worked as a tech writer for a company that allowed an estranged husband to visit his wife where she worked; he shot and killed his wife, the mother of his children. Personnel and personal safety has been a major concern for me as a Risk Management practitoner.

While the Risk Management practitioner may not be able to demand that management do "the right thing," the practitioner must, at least, make management aware of the consequences: fines, high employee turn-over, law suits, and damage to the organization's image. The practitioner is well advised to document every discussion to avoid inclusion in any post-attack legal action.


OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Source: Feds fine Birmingham nonprofit after violent clients attack staff in AL.COM

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