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Workplace Violence in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Case

As described in previous posts, Massachusetts recognizes psychiatric or emotional injuries stemming from the workplace, so long as they are not based on personnel decisions. The flip side of this is that some workers work in conditions where they may be more susceptible to unpredictable situations or random acts of violence. In 2011, OSHA cited North Suffolk Mental Health Association Inc. for failing to adequately protect against workplace violence.

The organization runs a group home for people with mental illnesses and behavioral disorders. The citation followed after a resident of the group home was believed to have abducted and murdered an onsite senior counselor. The organization contested the citation and reached a settlement, which was recently announced.

The settlement applies to all of the organizations programs, including the group homes. A union participated in the proceedings. OSHA representatives explained that the settlement would enhance safeguards and training, allowing workers at mental heath facilities to protect themselves against an attack.

The terms included a written violence prevention program, including workplace controls and prevention strategies, hazard assessment, and a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence. Management of the organization is supposed to obtain staff feedback on the violence prevention program.

In addition, the organization is to implement: reporting procedures when there is a threat of violence, procedures to account for staff, a buddy system for certain riskier shifts, and procedures for staff members to request and document requests for additional help when feeling unsafe.

If you work in a mental health facility, jail, foster care system or other arena in which power dynamics and unstable individuals contribute to a difficult atmosphere, be sure that there are sufficient procedures in place.

Some other procedures that were part of the settlement in the above-mentioned citation included determining the behavioral history of various mental health consumers, training staff in how to respond to threats of violence, and using a system to identify those consumers who have threatening behavior. Staff were given better ways of getting assistance, such as the implementation of walkie-talkies and cell phones. Adequate lighting was mandated.

While there are heightened risks associated with certain workplace environments, workplace violence can occur anywhere, including office cubicles. After an incident of violence, a worker may be traumatized or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that develops after one or more traumatic events. Usually someone with PTSD avoids all thoughts or emotions associated with the stressor, which can be a huge problem if the workplace is a stressor or trigger. This condition is classified as an anxiety disorder.

Some other common psychiatric issues that result after an episode of violence are other anxiety disorders and depression. These sometimes manifest themselves with physical symptoms like insomnia, rapid heartbeat, change in temperature, difficulty breathing, sweating, digestive issues, and more.

If you are the victim of workplace violence and experience these kinds of symptoms afterward, you may need to seek psychiatric help. You should also consult an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney for help filing a claim. You may be eligible for temporary or permanent disability, as well as compensation for medical expenses. Contact the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates to figure out your next steps. Call us at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.

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