Washington Hospital Cited for Failing to Protect Workers from Assaults

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has cited and fined Washington state's largest state-run psychiatric hospital for failing to protect employees from assaults by patients.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has cited and fined the state's largest state-run psychiatric hospital, Western State Hospital, for failing to protect employees from assaults by patients.

L&I's enforcement action followed a months-long investigation brought on by three violent patient-on-nurse assaults last year at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Wash. The investigation found that the state's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) "did not do everything reasonably necessary to protect employees" from workplace violence, according to a copy of the citation obtained by Northwest News Network.

Western State Hospital was also cited for failing to report a work-related hospitalization of a staff member within the required eight hours, as well as for not enforcing the hospital's own Accident Prevention Program. DSHS was cited for one serious and two general safety violations and fined $4,900. The agency has 15 days to appeal and until late April to address the violations.

The fixes ordered by L&I include:

  • Identify work areas and tasks that require two or more staff, with the goal of eliminating assaults
  • Ensure adequate staffing to protect employees from assaults on all wards and all shifts
  • Enclose all nurses' stations
  • Implement a plan to transfer assaultive patients to specialty wards

DSHS said in a statement that it has already taken steps to reduce the risk of assaults, including enclosing the nurses' stations in eight of the hospital's 29 wards, with three more in progress. Funding from the Legislature will be required to enclose the other 18 wards.

Other steps that have been taken include a longer new employee orientation period and the implementation of new training programs focusing on crisis prevention and intervention. The hospital also plans to create a specialty transition ward for the hospital's 10 most violent patients, but that also will require funding from the Legislature.

"We appreciate the feedback from L&I and will use it to continue to improve safety at the hospital," said Kelly Stowe, a DSHS spokesperson.

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