Federal judge affirms US Department of Labor finding that Colorado acute psychiatric treatment facility exposed employees to workplace violence
LOUISVILLE, CO – An administrative law judge in Denver has affirmed the findings of a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety investigation that determined a Louisville acute inpatient psychiatric treatment facility exposed direct care employees – such as nurses and mental health technicians – to aggressive patients who regularly assaulted and seriously injured them.
Following an inspection related to a December 2018 complaint of workplace violence, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited UHS of Centennial Peaks LLC – which operates as Centennial Peaks Hospital – for exposing employees to workplace violence hazards. The 104-bed behavioral health hospital, which provides acute inpatient hospitalization, medical detoxification and intensive outpatient programs for adolescents and adults, contested the May 2019 citations to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The action led to a two-week trial in September 2021.
On July 14, 2022, Administrative Law Judge Patrick Augustine affirmed OSHA’s citation and found that OSHA’s proposed abatement measures were feasible and would materially reduce the workplace violence hazard. The abatement measures included the following:
- Implementing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program.
- Training employees on the workplace violence prevention plan.
- Providing employees with reliable communication devices, such as radios and/or personal panic alarms.
- Reconfiguring the nurses’ stations to prevent patients from entering easily and assaulting staff within.
- Ensuring that units are staffed adequately to handle aggressive and escalating patients more safely.
- Conducting post-incident debriefings and investigations to improve future responses to situations involving aggressive patients.
The judge also affirmed OSHA’s $10,229 penalty.
“Workers at behavioral health centers are entitled to work without fear of violence from patients,” said Regional Solicitor John Rainwater in Denver. “Unfortunately, UHS of Centennial Peaks failed to meet its obligations, resulting in its employees suffering assaults and serious injuries at the hands of aggressive patients.”
This is the second favorable decision upholding workplace violence citations at a UHS-owned facility in Colorado. One case is pending after a two-week trial in Colorado Springs.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission’s decision – like others before it – holds UHS accountable for implementing feasible, common-sense measures that will make a real difference in keeping safe these employees who perform incredibly important and challenging work,” Rainwater added.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.