SOUTH BAY, FL – A federal workplace safety investigation found a South Bay correctional and rehabilitation facility failed to follow recognized safety practices, leaving employees vulnerable to violent attacks and injuries, including one worker who a patient reportedly struck in the face with a rock.The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an investigation into the incident after the GEO Group Inc., which operates as South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility, reported the worker’s hospitalization, two days after the incident occurred, which is a violation of OSHA’s rule requiring employers to report an inpatient hospitalization of an employee within 24 hours.Agency investigators learned an inmate violently attacked a nurse with a rock enclosed in their fist as the nurse held the medical waiting room door open for a wheelchair-bound inmate. As a result of the attack, the nurse suffered a broken nasal bone and cuts on their forehead.OSHA cited GEO Group for a serious violation for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized safety and health hazards, including inmates’ physical assaults which caused, or were likely to cause, serious physical harm. The agency also issued a citation for an other-than-serious violation for not reporting a workplace incident leading to an employee’s hospitalization within 24 hours, as required. OSHA assessed $26,787 in proposed penalties for the facility’s operator.“Workplace violence is a serious and alarming concern for healthcare workers who face a much higher risk of attacks than other workers,” said OSHA Area Office Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Employers like the GEO Group are aware of the hazards and again failed to protect its employees. As a result, a nurse suffered a brutal and painful attack. The facility must act to protect it workers immediately.”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the rate of nonfatal assaults on hospital workers at 8.3 per 10,000 workers, significantly higher than the rate of 2.0 per 10,000 workers in all private sector industries.From Dec. 20, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2017, the GEO Group Inc. entered into a corporate-wide settlement regarding workplace violence hazards with OSHA, requiring the company to develop a violence prevention and safety program that involved training employees and creating a workplace safety committee to address violence and patterns in its facility.The GEO Group Inc. operates 102 facilities with a workforce of 7,500 employees nationwide. The South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation is a 1,948-bed institution that houses adult males with custody levels ranging from minimum to maximum security, with 357 employees who care for them.The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.View information on Worker Safety in Hospitals and Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers.Learn more about OSHA.
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