Correctional Facility Hit with $104,100 Fine for Workplace Violence Hazards

A willful violation was issued for failing to provide required training to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites, and other injuries.

OSHA has cited The GEO Group Inc. with six safety and health violations for exposing employees to workplace violence and failing to take adequate measures to reduce the risk of violence following a December 2011 inspection stemming from a complaint about the Meridian, Miss., correctional facility. Proposed penalties total $104,100.

"This employer knowingly put workers at risk of injury or death by failing to implement well-recognized measures that would protect employees from physical assaults by inmates," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson. "Prisons may be inherently dangerous workplaces, but the employer is still required to take every reasonable precaution to protect corrections officers and other staff against safety and health hazards, including assaults."

A willful safety violation has been cited, with a $70,000 penalty, for failing to knowingly provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks or provide required training to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites and other injuries.

One repeat health violation, with a $16,500 penalty, also has been cited for failing to conduct medical evaluations for workers required to wear respirators. A similar violation was cited in November 2010 at GEO's Pompano Beach, Fla., facility.

Two serious health and one serious safety violation, carrying a total of $17,600 in penalties, include failure to conduct a fit test for employees required to wear respirators, have a written exposure control plan for employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens and complete a personal protective equipment hazard assessment.

One other-than-serious safety violation has been cited for failing to provide a written energy control procedure for workers exposed to electrical shock hazards. No penalty was assessed.

GEO Group said in April that it would give up its contracts to run East Mississippi and two other prisons in Mississippi. A Utah firm will take over.

The GEO Group Inc. is a correctional and detention organization with approximately 80,000 beds and 116 facilities located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. The company's East Mississippi correctional facility houses 1,318 low, medium and high security inmates, as well as inmates with mental illness.

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