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Psychiatric clinic safety may leave staff exposed

Hospital workers in Denver likely heard about a horrible shooting that took place at a psychiatric clinic last year in which one clinic employee was killed and five others were injured. Thought it happened outside of Colorado, it has raised considerable concern amongst employees within the mental health field. Now that a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration evaluation has been completed, it may force some hospitals and clinics to reevaluate their safety plans for employees.

The OSHA consultant found that while the clinic had considerable safety procedures in place, they were meant to benefit the patients, not the staff members. Though some of these procedures had a positive effect on employee safety, the consultant did not believe enough was being done to protect employers. It is very possible that if the same consultant reviewed some Denver-area hospitals and psychiatric clinics she would find the same disparity between patient and employee safety.

According to investigators, the shooter was upset with physicians from a different hospital who he believed had misdiagnosed his stomach pain. The man was not a patient at the clinic, nor had he been treated by the physicians there, but police believe that he was nonetheless living with mental health issues.

This blog has frequently talked about the duty employers have to maintain a safe workplace, but the conversation has always been focused around preventing serious or fatal accidents. That duty, however, also requires employers to provide workplaces free of violence. This may include a no-tolerance policy against violent behavior by staff members, but it should also include safety procedures against outside violence.

Source: The Associated Press, "Report to OSHA: Pa. clinic overlooks worker safety," Jan. 2, 2013

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