Correctional officers in Ohio are faced with many challenges while working in a facility with potentially violent criminal offenders. That said, most injuries sustained due to an altercation with a prisoner are covered under either workers’ compensatio
n or Occupational Injury Leave (OIL). However, one risk in particular is not covered by most correctional facilities, despite the fact it is an ever present danger.
Officers who work in correctional facilities are often exposed to bodily fluids and sharp objects used by the inmates, some of which are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
What Happens When a Correctional Officer is Exposed to HIV?
The Portsmouth Daily Times
interviewed a correction officer with the Civil Service Employees Association Union who said that after exposure to HIV, officers are seen by medical staff on-site. There, medical staff informs them they have 90 days to go to a local hospital and get checked for HIV. After the formal notification, the correction officer will receive an anti-prophylactic, which prevents the spread of the virus infection. The hospital then requests the officers return for three follow up visits, all on the correction officer’s dime.
While the HIV testing is covered by the prison facility if the officer receives testing before the deadline, the anti-prophylactic and follow up procedures are not covered for the prevention of infection. According to the Department of Administrative Services, because an officer is not hurt, his medical attention is not covered under workers’ compensation. OIL offers compensation if a worker is physically attacked or assaulted by an inmate. However, because officers who are exposed to HIV are not directly assaulted, OIL does not require benefits that cover a correction officer’s medical expenses. The only circumstance for which workers’ comp covers HIV exposure is if the officer tests positive for the virus.
Worse still, the anti-prophylactic has side effects that make the correction officers feel ill. Most hospital pharmacists recommend not returning to work for 30 days, however, most correction facilities require correction officers to return to work the very next day. The union member says he knows of cases where officers are so ill, they can’t even hold their head up at work. That said, how are officers working with the anti-prophylactic side effects reasonably expected to defend themselves if an inmate chose to assault them?
Ohio Corrections Officers Deserve Better Treatment for the Risks They Take
Corrections officers put themselves at risk every day to protect the surrounding communities. The Southern Ohio Correctional Facility located in Lucasville, an isolated prison that houses particularly violent offenders that needed to be transferred from other prisons, poses particular risks to its correctional officers. Given they are exposed to punctures, needle sticks and projected bodily fluids daily, the state should cover all medical expenses, including HIV testing and treatment.
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC represents victims who contract occupational diseases and other on-the-job injuries in Ohio.