As an employer, it's imperative to provide employees with a safe working environment. Failure to do so can have a multitude of adverse consequences, including decreased productivity, increased insurance premiums, steep work comp costs and, of course, potential fines from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
Interestingly, the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco -- a medium-security prison housing roughly 4,000 inmates -- was recently investigated by Cal/OSHA following the receipt of an anonymous complaint concerning the large number of feral cats roaming its 98 acres.
According to sources, the feral cats have long been present on the prison grounds, and became something of a pet project for prison employees. For example, employees would regularly feed the cats on breaks, and even banded together to form the Kitty Committee, which consisted of employees working with the warden's office to ensure the cats received proper medical care.
In fact, the feral cats were also loved and cared for by many the inmates, serving as something of an unofficial rehabilitation tool.
"Some of the most hardened criminals would confide to staff that they surprised themselves at how much they cared, citing how their lifestyles and years of prison had hardened their hearts," said one employee.
All of this may soon be coming to an end, however, as Cal/OSHA cited the prison for a general violation after its aforementioned inspection. Here, the agency claimed the presence of the cats constituted a health hazard and threatened to fine the prison if the cats were not removed.
Prison officials informed employees in a memo last week that "proactive measures to eradicate the cats" were being undertaken.
While there is some confusion as to how exactly this will occur, employees and inmates alike are concerned over the welfare of the animals they have grown to care for over the years.
Still, the prison has understandably held firm on humanely ridding the facility of the animals in the name of employee safety.
"As an employer, it is our responsibility to ensure and maintain a safe working and living environment," said a prison spokesperson.
Stay tuned for further discussion on work injury prevention or developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...
The Press-Enterprise, "NORCO: Prison ridding grounds of feral cats," Peter Fischetti, June 7, 2013