OSHRC Affirms Citation in Workplace Violence Case

The case involves a serious violation of the General Duty Clause for which Integra Health Management, an Owings Mills, Md.-based social service employer, was cited.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed an OSHA citation March 4 in a case where a company's employee was killed by a client with a history of mental illness and violent criminal behavior. The case involves a serious violation of the General Duty Clause for which Integra Health Management, an Owings Mills, Md.-based social service employer, was cited. The client, who had a criminal record (grand theft of a motor vehicle in 1981, battery in 1992, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in 1990, and aggravated assault with a weapon in 1995, according to the commission's 3-0 decision) stabbed the employee nine times when the employee made a scheduled visit to his home in December 2012.

The employee was a 25-year-old recent college graduate, hired as a service coordinator by Integra but lacking any experience in social work or working with mentally ill people, according to the decision, which held that Integra is accountable for failing to protect workers from workplace violence. The decision does not identify the female employee by name.

(By the time OSHRC took up the case, Integra had implemented new protocols, including background checks on all members, red-flagging members with criminal backgrounds, establishing a liaison with local law enforcement, and instituting a written workplace violence program with mandatory reporting, the decision says.)

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) filed an amicus brief in the OSHRC case, Secretary of Labor v. Integra Health Management, Inc. "It is well-known – and tragic – that health care and social service workers are frequent victims of workplace violence," said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. "Employers have a legal responsibility to act on this knowledge and provide a safe and healthy workplace. Integra failed and a social service worker lost her life."

"This ruling will help prevent future tragedies," said attorney Randy Rabinowitz, who represented National COSH, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Service Employees International Union as amici in the case. "Employers are now on notice of their responsibility under existing law to reduce the risks of workplace violence."

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