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Region 4 News Release: 12-1120-ATL (205)
June 12, 2012
Contact: Michael Wald      Michael D'Aquino
Phone: 404-562-2078      404-562-2076
Email: wald.michael@dol.gov      d'aquino.michael@dol.gov

Mississippi correctional facility cited by US Department of Labor's OSHA for
workplace violence and other hazards; more than $104,000 in fines proposed

MERIDIAN, Miss. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited The GEO Group Inc. with six safety and health violations, including one willful, for exposing employees to workplace violence and failing to take adequate measures to reduce the risk of violence following a December 2011 inspection stemming from a complaint about the Meridian correctional facility. Proposed penalties total $104,100.

"This employer knowingly put workers at risk of injury or death by failing to implement well-recognized measures that would protect employees from physical assaults by inmates," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's area director in Jackson. "Prisons may be inherently dangerous workplaces, but the employer is still required to take every reasonable precaution to protect corrections officers and other staff against safety and health hazards, including assaults."

A willful safety violation has been cited, with a $70,000 penalty, for failing to knowingly provide adequate staffing, fix malfunctioning cell door locks or provide required training to protect employees from incidents of violent behavior by inmates, including stabbings, bites and other injuries. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

One repeat health violation, with a $16,500 penalty, also has been cited for failing to conduct medical evaluations for workers required to wear respirators. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation was cited in November 2010 at GEO's Pompano Beach, Fla., facility.

Two serious health and one serious safety violation, carrying a total of $17,600 in penalties, include failure to conduct a fit test for employees required to wear respirators, have a written exposure control plan for employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens and complete a personal protective equipment hazard assessment. 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.

One other-than-serious safety violation has been cited for failing to provide a written energy control procedure for workers exposed to electrical shock hazards. No penalty was assessed. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The GEO Group Inc. is a correctional and detention organization with approximately 80,000 beds and 116 facilities located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. The company's East Mississippi correctional facility houses 1,318 low, medium and high security inmates, as well as inmates with mental illness.

Information on workplace violence is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/index.html.

The citations can be viewed at
http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/The_GEO_Group_Inc_315306803_06_11_2012.pdf*,
http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/The_GEO_Group_Inc_315306357_06_11_2012.pdf*.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Jackson office at 601-965-4606.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.


* Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.


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