Workplace conditions at a prison in another state have prompted a campaign by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to tackle risks to all kinds of workers. The national office received an eight-page complaint from one of the prison's correctional officers, detailing the dangerous situation in which the employees were working. Guidelines set forth by OSHA to reduce the risks of on\-the\-job injuries are valid in all 50 states, including California.
After receiving the letter, an occupational health and safety specialist investigated the complaint. A few of the points in the man's letter were not under the jurisdiction of OSHA for the privately owned facility. There were, however, several issues that did warrant an investigation, such as inadequate locks on the cells, shortage of staff, correctional officers at risk of being attacked, and inadequate exit strategies.
The facility had no body alarm systems for the correctional workers or staff. A shortage of the two-way radios needed to communicate between officers also made conditions more dangerous. Without these radios, it is difficult for the workers to alert central control stations when they need a door to be opened or closed. Malfunctioning cell door locks made it possible for inmates to use gum wrappers to fool the surveillance system into believing a door was locked when it was actually open.
Although the correctional officers are supposed to pair up when working in the facility, the investigator found that many could not due to inadequate staffing. These workers were often forced to work alone with no radio and no weapon of any kind. In the event of an attack, they had no way to defend themselves or call for help.
The facility received several citations for health violations and hefty fines for the workplace conditions. The company was ordered to implement workplace violence prevention programs, safety committees and modifications at all of their facilities across the country. For those in California who have suffered on-the-job injuries or illnesses and have been denied worker's compensation or short-changed on their benefits, a personal injury lawyer will examine your case and help you determine your options for seeking compensation for your injuries.
Source: businessinsurance.com, "OSHA tackles workplace violence, temporary worker risks", Kristen Beckman, June 22, 2017