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OSHA investigates violence, injured workers at mental facilities

While construction sites and factories are known to be dangerous workplace facilities, those who work in mental institutions in New York and other states also face job hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently launched investigations concerning the safety of workers at four such facilities in a neighboring state. The frequency of reports of injured workers likely led to this action.

This is not a new problem, and records indicate that OSHA reported that employees at mental health facilities face risks of violence by acute patients back in Oct. 2015. While caring for some patients, workers often suffer assaults that cause severe bodily injuries. After one such incident, OSHA criticized one of these four hospitals for its failure to use more staff when working with known violent patients. Incident reports include a nurse whose ear was almost torn off by a 22-year-old patient and another nurse who was attacked by a patient receiving drug addiction treatment.

The federal agency's records show that aggressive patients injured 13 workers between Jan. and May 2015 at that hospital. In 2014, the total number was 24, which was 41 percent more than the recorded figure for 2013. The frequency of violent incidents is unquestionably a concern, and last spring, workers reported feeling threatened while they were on duty.

Injured workers victimized by violence in their workplaces are entitled to pursue financial relief through the New York workers' compensation insurance system. They can file benefits claims with the insurance program, and compensation typically includes coverage for medical expenses related to the injuries. Furthermore, those whose injuries prevent them from returning to work may receive additional compensation to make up for lost wages.

Source: eye.necir.org, "OSHA launches four more investigations at Arbour psychiatric hospitals", Christopher Burrell, Nov. 11, 2016

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