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OSHA fines Mississippi correctional facility for workplace violence

A Mississippi correctional facility was fined by OSHA after failing to take measures to ensure employee safety, even after an investigation in 2011.
A Mississippi correctional facility was fined by OSHA after failing to take measures to ensure employee safety, even after an investigation in 2011.

The GEO Group Inc. was fined by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for six safety and health violations in their Mississippi location. The proposed penalties total $104,100 and include one willful violation, where employees were exposed to workplace violence and the facility failed to take adequate measures to reduce violence after a December 2011 investigation.

Alone, the willful violation totals $70,000 and was cited to the Meridian correctional facility for failing to knowingly provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks or provide required training to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior – stabbings, biting and others – by inmates, as reported in a WorkersCompensation.com article.

A willful violation has the highest fine as it entails intentionally knowing, or voluntarily disregarding the laws requirements, with plain indifference to worker safety and health. 

"Prisons may be inherently dangerous workplaces, but the employer is still required to take every reasonable precaution to protect corrections officers and other staff against safety and health hazards, including assaults," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson.

Several of the other violations, some of which carried a fine while others did not, included not a lack of written plans or procedures in place for employees in situations ranging from exposure to bloodborne pathogens to workers being exposed to electrical shock hazards.

Fines and legal fees shouldn't have to happen for businesses to institute written procedures for their employees to ensure safety for all involved. If unsure how to create a plan, companies can partner with a business continuity consultant to prepare written documentation on how to proceed in emergency or disaster situations. These professionals can also help create a general business continuity plan so the company will stay afloat in any situation.