Patient Mental Health Issues Pose Risk to Workers

There are some occupations that pose serious risks to workers. Industries like fishing, logging, oil, and construction are known to create severe workplace hazards. In the medical profession, nurses and doctors can be exposed to infectious disease, toxic chemicals and the risk of needles. A less studied work-related hazard is faced by medical professionals charged with working with patients in a behavioral health unit.

Nationwide, hospitals and other medical facilities are becoming more aware of the health hazards posed to workers. Workers have been known to suffer from attacks and assaults including, hitting, punching, and even biting. For many workers, the consequences have been severe, even fatal. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced with helping employees recover the financial support they need after a work-related accident or injury. We are also dedicated to investigating and pursuing less-common workers’ compensation claims, including behavioral health related injuries.


In any industry, employers are responsible for making sure that employees have a safe working environment. In construction and other industries involving heavy machinery, safety mechanisms and equipment must be in place. Similarly, employers must protect employees from hazardous materials and other potential dangers. In the medical and behavioral health industry, hospitals and other employees must protect workers from being assaulted by patients.

In a recent case, a hospital could face fines up to $8,000 after The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued two citations against the facility for violations. The agency found that the hospital failed to implement programs and procedures to protect workers from injuries that resulted from attacks. The second violation was for failing to log patient attacks in an OSHA log. In a statement released by the Labor Department, one of the violations was “serious,” meaning that it was issued with a substantial probability that death or serious harm could result from the violations. In this case the employer knew or “should have known” of these hazards but failed to take remedial measures.

Patient assault is under the umbrella category of “workplace violence” which has historically gone underreported. Though workers in the behavioral health field are at risk, no workers are immune. Health care professionals, particularly in the behavioral health sector are at a high risk of facing these hazards. Hospitals and other health care employers must take necessary steps to ensure that workers do not face the risk of harm or fatality.

The OSHA release did not provide details of the allegations or dates, but the hospital at issue contested the claims, stating that the facility is not a forensic psychiatry unit and therefore does not require physical modifications to the workplace. According to the Department of Labor, the hospital has 15 business days to respond to the citations. They can request an informal conference with representatives or contest the citations before an independent board. The hospital officials plan to meet with OSHA and to clarify that the hospital is safe for workers.

Workers in the behavioral health industry have the right to file a claim in the event of an assault. Remember to have your injuries documented and to take necessary steps with the help of an experienced advocate to best protect your rights and interests.

If you or someone you love was injured by workplace violence or in a work-related accident, contact the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

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