Employers in Alabama are required by federal law to provide workers with a safe environment. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states specifically that the workplace must not allow hazards that could cause injury or death to an employee. In Birmingham, Alabama, OSHA recently fined a residential habilitation service program $7,000 for its failure to protect employees from violence in the workplace.
The facility has until November 23 to correct the situations that led to the attacks. It was provided with suggestions for dealing with threats of violence from clients in a number of ways, according to OSHA. These include providing all employees with adequate information about potentially dangerous clients based on behavioral patterns, including ongoing input from employees who witness these behaviors. In addition, employees should have proper training in the use of restraining methods and the ability to call for assistance immediately in emergency situations.
According to the report, employees were physically attacked, choked and punched by clients, and were not equipped to defend themselves against the assaults. OSHA recommendations for corrective actions to aid employees include putting treatment protocol in place to physically and mentally rehabilitate employees who have witnessed violence or who have been injured on the job because of a client's behavior.
Even when the nature of a work environment necessarily involves dealing with hazardous issues daily, it is the employer's responsibility to eliminate the potential for harm whenever possible. OSHA provides guidelines for workplace safety for many industries, including work in social services. An employer who wants to learn more about protocol that can be implemented in a specific situation may want to contact an attorney to identify the best solutions for that situation.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Citation and Notification of Penalty," July 10, 2015