News Release

Department of Labor investigation into worker’s serious injuries finds healthcare facility’s operator again failed to protect employees from patient violence

Circles of Care cited for failing to keep workers safe after patient attacked health tech

ORLANDO, FL For the third time in five years, a federal investigation has found the operator of multiple psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities, has had workers seriously injured or killed in violent patient attacks, including an employee who suffered serious injuries caused by a patient at a Melbourne location.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration began an investigation into the Nov. 7, 2023, incident after Circles of Care Inc. reported the worker’s hospitalization two days after a patient used a metal hole punch to strike a mental health technician at a nurse’s workstation in the head, face, hands and arms. A second employee suffered a hand laceration as they assisted in restraining the patient.

OSHA cited the company with a repeat violation for not providing a workplace free of recognized safety and health hazards — such as workplace violence — at its Sheridan West Unit at 400 E. Sheridan Road. The agency found Circles of Care failed to provide sufficient controls to prevent the escalation of acts of aggression toward professional staff. OSHA also issued a citation for an other-than-serious violation for the company’s failure to report an employee’s work-related hospitalization within 24 hours, as required by law.

Circles of Care Inc. faces $101,397 in proposed OSHA penalties for these violations.  

The incident follows OSHA investigations into two other serious incidents in 2020 at the company’s facility on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Melbourne: the fatal shooting of a counselor by a former Circles of Care patient in December and, on another occasion, an alleged assault.

Circles of Care’s reluctance to protect its employees from the recognized danger of patient assault is shocking. These attacks often occur suddenly and swiftly, causing serious and, as we’ve seen, fatal harm to workers and leaving their co-workers traumatized,” said OSHA Area Office Director Erin Sanchez in Orlando, Florida. “Workplace violence remains a real threat that healthcare employers and employees cannot underestimate. Industry employers like Circles of Care must prepare and train employees properly and practice emergency response actions to combat these incidents and ensure their employees are able to end their shifts safely.”

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.

Based in Melbourne, Circles of Care Inc. operates 10 facilities, including four outpatient locations, providing behavioral health, substance abuse disorder and other healthcare services. The company has a workforce of about 480 employees statewide.

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.

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
May 9, 2024
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Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
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