State fined for failing to protect workers at St. Peter hospital

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Minnesota's Department of Human Services (DHS) faces a $63,000 fine for failing to protect workers at the psychiatric hospital in St. Peter from attacks by patients.

The fine was levied by OSHA, which cited nine safety violations at the Minnesota Security Hospital between May and July, KEYC reports. Each violation led to a $7,000 fine.

The St. Peter facility is home to patients who have been referred there by a court because they've been deemed violent.

Worker safety there has been a simmering issue that came to a head in July after a particularly brutal assault sent a female staff member into seizures, and led OSHA inspectors to make a surprise visit a few days later.

A DHS official said in a statement: “More work needs to be done to improve safety at the Minnesota Security Hospital. We are committed to that work, and are currently collaborating with staff, labor partners and others to ensure a safer environment for all employees and patients,” KEYC reports.

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The DHS statement also noted that the union representing the hospital's workers is in mediation with the state to develop solutions to security issues.

DHS has 20 days to contest the fine and the St. Peter Herald says OSHA cannot comment during that window of time.

The Star Tribune reports records show staff at the St. Peter hospital reported 111 work-related injuries through October of this year. That compares to 101 in all of 2014 and 87 the previous year, the newspaper says.

Changes made at the hospital since late last year have included intensified staff training, new protective equipment and additional security cameras, the Star Tribune reports.

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