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Cal/OSHA to investigate assault on Napa State Hospital staffer

August 17, 2012 | 12:54 pm

California workplace safety regulators said they have opened an investigation into a patient assault of a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician
California workplace safety regulators said Friday that they have opened an investigation into a patient assault of a Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician.

The employee was wearing a personal alarm on a lanyard around his neck, as required, when a patient punched him Wednesday evening and then grabbed the lanyard from both sides and attempted to choke him, according to a hospital incident report. The employee was treated and released from a local emergency room.

The assault occurred a day after the rollout of the much-anticipated alarm system, devised in the wake of the October 2010 strangulation death of employee Donna Gross.

Although Napa State Hospital employees have said they generally are pleased with the system, which transmits and receives data through wireless tags, they have raised concerns about having to wear lanyards around their necks. On Thursday, Department of State Hospitals Deputy Director Kathy Gaither said all employees soon will have the option of wearing the alarm on a belt-loop clip instead.

Cal/OSHA cited and fined Napa State Hospital $100,000 in the wake of Gross' death, in part citing a faulty alarm system that did not function on the fenced hospital grounds where she was killed. The Department of State Hospitals has appealed those citations, along with one issued by Cal/OSHA against other state mental hospitals, but is working with regulators to mediate workplace hazards, officials say.

After reviewing reports of Wednesday's assault -- allegedly committed by a male patient who has been deemed incompetent to stand trial in a criminal proceeding -- Cal/OSHA regulators opted to open an investigation into the incident, said spokeswoman Erika Monterroza. A separate Cal/OSHA investigation is pending of a May assault on a Napa staff member that resulted in a broken ankle, Monterroza said.


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Photo: Napa State Hospital workers rally for safer conditions in the wake of the killing of psychiatric technician Donna Gross. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times