Tuesday, December 05, 2006

CalOSHA Cites Psych Center For Violence

CalOSHA has taken action to workplace violence in a psychiatric health center in Richmond, CA. The agency has fined Contra Costa County $20,805 for failing to provide adequate security at the Richmond health center after removing a uniformed safety employee from the premises.

The county is objecting to the fine with the ridiculous excuse that "we can't turn the place into a fortress," according to Dr. Jeffry Smith, who oversees medical services at the clinic and the county hospital in Martinez.

Why is this "fortress" excuse so ridiculous? The article in the Contra Costa Times notes that patients frequently bring concealed weapons into the center, and it's next door to a judicial complex and is often used as a walk-through by people going from court to the parking lot. There was recently a shooting incident at the center's entrance, although the office was cited by CalOSHA before that.

So what does Johnson consider "fortress-like?" CalOSHA recommended metal detection equipment, security cameras, reception desk barriers, a panic button alarm system, and mandatory searches.

County officials say they haven't installed metal detectors because they want to "avoid treating patients like criminals." Hello people, been in an airport or federal or state government building recently. We're all treated like criminals. Welcome to America 2006.

County supervisors also removed public safety officers, or PSOs, from the Richmond center as well as health clinics in Pittsburg and Martinez earlier this year without first adequately assessing security needs, according to CalOSHA. The county claimed that it would rely on Richmond police, although CalOSHA accused the county of failing to get a realistic estimate of response times by Richmond police in one of the "most dangerous cities in California."

The infuriating thing about the county's response is that it's been over a decade since California -- followed by the federal government -- issued guidelines to prevent violence in social service and health care facilities. This should all be obvious stuff.

Kudos to CalOSHA for enforcing these guidelines. Unfortunately, there's been no such action by federal OSHA nor most other OSHA state plans.