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Report says Nationwide Children's Hospital failed to protect employees from attacks

Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus lights up for Pride Month.
Nationwide Children's Hospital

The U.S. Department of Labor says Nationwide Children's Hospital failed to protect employees from patient outbursts that included sexual and physical assaults.

A statement from the labor department says investigators with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation in November 2022 at the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children's Hospital following a complaint.

The report says "while providing inpatient care to patients, nurse(s) and mental health
specialist(s) were exposed to the hazard of workplace violence including, but not limited to, sexual and physical assaults such as, groping, biting, kicking, punching, head-butting and scratching that resulted in serious physical injuries such as, lacerations, contusions, sprains, strains, headaches, and concussions."

The OSHA report also says the hospital failed to keep proper records of employee injuries as required.

OSHA issued citations to the facility for one serious violation and one “other-than-serious” violation and proposed $18,000 in penalties.

“Behavioral healthcare workers can be exposed to risks when treating patients who suffer with conditions that can lead to violent outbursts," wrote OSHA’s Columbus area director Larry Johnson in a statement.

"Unfortunately, Nationwide Children's Hospital failed to take the necessary precautions that could have prevented their employees from being injured,” the statement said.

Investigators recommended the hospital:

  • Develop and implement a written workplace violence prevention program that is specific to the conditions and hazards at the Behavioral Health Pavilion.
  • Develop and implement specific written procedures for employees to take when encountering or responding to an incident of workplace violence.
  • Maintain staffing that is adequate to safely address changes in patient acuity and patient census.
  • Develop and implement standardized patient admission protocols to address patient on staff workplace violence.
  • Develop and implement post-incident policies and procedures to ensure staff are assessed for injuries sustained during a WPV incident (e.g., concussion protocol) and can safely return to work
  • Implement controls to prevent patients from using furniture as weapons

The labor department says the hospital has 15 days "to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission."

Nationwide Children's Hospital issued the following statement:

"The youth mental health crisis has highlighted the complex challenges for behavioral health providers. Our priority is to provide the highest quality care for the children we serve in the safest possible environment for our employees, patients, and families. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is reviewing the findings of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and is working directly with OSHA regarding its concerns. Nationwide Children’s has extensive safety policies, processes, and procedures in place, and our team continually reviews and updates these safety practices."