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OSHA explains prevalence of injured workers at mental hospital

Hospital employees nationwide, including here in Colorado, are typically exposed to a wide variety of safety hazards. However, those working in psychiatric hospitals have to face an additional range of potential risks. Injured workers are prevalent in these facilities, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently shed light on the work environments of employees at a psychiatric hospital in another state.

A number of employees at the facility were accused by state health officials of improper handling of patients, and criminal violations were investigated some time ago. Some workers were terminated, but none of them were charged criminally. An eight-month investigation by OSHA found that hospital workers suffered frequent assaults by patients. Evidence was found of employees being bitten and struck. Some suffered fractured bones while others suffered unconsciousness after being strangled.

Mental patients who pose a severe danger to members of communities are treated in this facility, and the management reached an agreement with OSHA to improve workplace safety. The agency recommended more appropriate training for employees and allocation of tasks to groups of two rather than singles. Furthermore, radios and alarm buttons must be supplied for summoning help when necessary, and protective sleeves that will keep arms and wrists from cuts, punctures and abrasions must be issued to all employees.

Colorado workers who are employed in similar facilities may rest assured that the workers' compensation insurance system provides financial relief for injured workers. Benefits claims may be pursued to assist with unanticipated medical expenses. Also, if the injuries are of a debilitating nature that requires recuperation and absence from work, a percentage of lost wages is typically included in the compensation package.

Source: wkzo.com, "MI-OSHA: Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital employees were subjected to severe workplace violence", John McNeill, Dec. 8, 2015

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