When residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area think of workplace hazards, the first thing that may come to mind are things like dangerous or defective machines, holes, sharp objects, unsteady piles of items or other inanimate dangers.
However, Arizona workers and employers need to remember that sometimes a safety hazard can arise on account of another human being who chooses to behave dangerously or even aggressively. Violent and aggressive behavior can lead to an employee suffering a serious personal injury.
A recent case that illustrates this point involves the state's prison system, which has been under fire recently for not doing enough to protect its guards and other staff from sexual assaults or other attacks by inmates. The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, our state's equivalent to OSHA, has opened an investigation following a recent sexual assault at a prison in Yuma.
The man who is accused of assaulting the female officer has a track record for being violent. In addition to being incarcerated for his role in the murder and robbery of his stepfather, he has been punished by the prison system for violence at least three times. One of his violent outbursts was directed toward a member of the prison staff.
This new investigation comes on the heels of a fine against the prison system on account of a teacher being raped while she was working at a different facility. The prison system is appealing the $14,000 fine.
Employers in Arizona have both an obligation and every incentive to provide a safe workplace to their employees. Providing a safe workplace not only means keeping the facility safe from inanimate hazards, but also keeping the workplace reasonably secure from people who choose to behave violently or recklessly. For those who are hurt at work through the actions of another, workers' compensation may be available to help them fund their rehabilitation costs.
Source: The Arizona Republic, "Workplace safety agency probing Arizona prison sex assault," May 18, 2015.