SOUTH BAY, FL – A workplace safety investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revealed serious safety violations at the South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility. The investigation found that the facility failed to implement recognized safety practices, leaving employees vulnerable to violent attacks and serious injuries.
According to OSHA, the GEO Group Inc., which operates the facility, violated the agency’s rule requiring employers to report an inpatient hospitalization of an employee within 24 hours. This violation occurred when a worker was hospitalized two days after being struck in the face with a rock by a patient. The nurse, who was holding the medical waiting room door open for a wheelchair-bound inmate, suffered a broken nasal bone and cuts on their forehead as a result of the attack.
OSHA cited the GEO Group for serious and other-than-serious violations, including failure to provide a workplace free from recognized safety and health hazards, as well as not reporting a workplace incident leading to an employee’s hospitalization within the required 24-hour period. As a result, OSHA assessed $26,787 in proposed penalties for the facility’s operator.
Workplace violence is a significant concern for healthcare workers, who face a higher risk of attacks compared to workers in other industries, according to OSHA Area Office Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 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 in all private sector industries.
The GEO Group Inc. had previously entered into a corporate-wide settlement with OSHA regarding workplace violence hazards from 2013 to 2017. The settlement required the company to develop a violence prevention and safety program, including training employees and creating a workplace safety committee to address violence and patterns in its facilities. The South Bay Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility, which houses adult males with custody levels ranging from minimum to maximum security, has a workforce of 357 employees caring for 1,948 inmates.
The GEO Group Inc. has 15 business days to comply with the citations and penalties, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. OSHA provides resources for worker safety in hospitals and guidelines for preventing workplace violence for healthcare and social service workers.