OSHA Fines Clinic Where Peabody Caseworker Was Killed
Federal workplace safety officials have fined the organization that runs a Revere group home, where a Peabody mental health worker was stabbed in January, for not having adequate safety measures in place despite high probability of an incident occurring.
The Revere mental health clinic where Peabody caseworker Stephanie Moulton was stabbed in January has been fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for not having adequate safeguards against violence in place for employees at the clinic.
OSHA cited the facility for “a serious violation of [OSHA’s] ‘general duty clause’ for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death.”
“A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known,” OSHA says.
Moulton, 24, died from her stab wound inflicted by a patient, 27-year-old Deshawn Chappell, after he fled the group home, taking her with him and then dumping her body behind a church in Lynn. Chappell, who had a history of violent behavior, attacked Moulton during a counseling session.
The Andover field office for OSHA announced that North Suffolk Mental Health Association was being fined last week.
Jeffrey Erskine, the area director of the Andover office, said the citation highlights a “clear and pressing need” for employers in that industry to have comprehensive and effective safeguards to proactively deal with workplace situations that imperil the safety of employees.
“Prevention, protection, awareness, training and communication are critical to protecting these workers against death or serious injuries,” Erskine said in a press release.
The fine, which is for $7,000, does not carry with it any mandated safety improvements at the clinic, although OSHA has made several suggestions in that regard.
Those suggestions include creating a workplace violence prevention program that outlines implementation, prevention strategies, policy, threat assessments, incident reporting and periodic review of the program, as well as establishing a system to identify clients who show such violent behavior and conducting criminal and sex offender records checks.
Another measure would be installing panic buttons, using walkie talkies, surveillance cameras and smartphone Global Positioning System applications to monitor employee safety, or perhaps implement a buddy system on certain shifts.
Jackie Moore, the CEO of North Suffolk Mental Health, said in a statement that the organization has strived for more than 50 years to ensure the safety of staff and clients and will continue to do so.
She said that some of OSHA’s suggestions are already in place, but noted concern that the citation and recommendations from OSHA reflect an “intrusive approach to community mental health care.”
Nevertheless, she added that the agency would be presenting a proposal outlining safety improvements to OSHA.
OSHA says the fine is the maximum amount it can issue for a “serious violation.”
Meanwhile, Moulton’s mother, Kimberly Flynn, told the Salem News she thought the amount of the fine was “ridiculous,” but at least some movement that can help her get “Stephanie’s Law” passed in the state legislature and avert similar future tragedies.
The proposed bill, among other things, would require all mental health workers to wear a panic button and carry a cell phone outfitted with a GPS.
Flynn is working with Peabody’s state delegation on the bill.
Flynn and Robert Moulton, Stephanie’s father, have also filed a wrongful death suit in Middlesex Superior Court against the board of directors of the group home, along with two psychiatrists who served as consultants, and Chappell himself.
Moulton’s parents are being represented by Peabody attorney Barry Feinstein.
Chappell was deemed incompetent to stand trial and is being held at Bridgewater State Hospital.