Federal Judge Finds Florida Behavioral Healthcare Center Exposes Employees to More than 50 Attacks

Federal Judge Finds Florida Behavioral Healthcare Center Exposes Employees to More than 50 Attacks

UHS of Delaware Inc. and Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida were both fined for not protecting workers.

Workplace violence exposure was determined by a federal administrative law judge at a Bradenton behavioral healthcare center. The center and its management company exposed its workers to more than 50 attacks in a two-and-a-half-year period “when residents kicked, punched, bit, scratched, pulled and used desk scissors as a weapon, and that both entities deserve to be sanctioned for destroying surveillance videos,” according to a press release.

In a 170-page decision, the U.S. Department of Labor Law Judge Dennis Phillips found UHS of Delaware Inc., a hospital management company, and Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. exposed employees to workplace violence and allowed destruction of videos showing evidence of violence at the facility. Premier operates while UHS manages Suncoast Behavioral Health Center in Bradenton as well as more than 300 other behavioral facilities nationwide.

The judge’s decision follows the OSHA investigation at Suncoast in 2017 when a patient stabbed an employee with scissors. OSHA came to the conclusion that both UHS of Delaware and Suncoast exposed employees to workplace violence that included physical assaults and attacks on staff. OSHA cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions and UHS for proposed penalties of $71,137.

“Violence, particularly against healthcare workers, is a leading cause of injury in the workplace. The U.S. Department of Labor will pursue all available legal actions to hold employers accountable and ensure they take all feasible steps to keep employees safe,” said Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta.

A 13-day hearing on the merits was conducted by the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta in April and August of 2019. Department attorneys determined that between January 2016 and July 2018, at least 55 incidents of patients attacking staff occurred.

Judge Phillips assessed a penalty of $12,934, in addition, the judge ordered employers to pay $9,600 in attorney’s fees as a sanction for video surveillance destruction evidence.

The judge found that UHS and Suncoast should implement abatement measures, including:

• Developing and implementing a comprehensive workplace violence program.

• Hiring staff with specialized training in security to be available on all shifts and on all units for the sole purpose of monitoring patients and responding to acts of patient aggression.

• Performing practice drills on how to respond to acts of patient aggression and reconfiguring the nurse’s station so patients are not able to jump over or into it.

This was the fourth trial against a UHS Inc. subsidiary brought by Regional Solicitors’ offices and the second in which the Solicitor of Labor and OSHA named UHS of Delaware as an employer in addition to the subsidiary facility.

Under the OSHA act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their employees.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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