South Dakota Gets “F” In Workplace Safety


It can be inherently dangerous to work with people who have severe developmental disabilities and behavioral problems.

The state facility designed to care for them has had many injuries to both staff and residents over the years.

But in our 2016 KELOLAND News investigation, former and current workers alleged the dangerous environment at the South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield was due to staff shortages and mismanagement. Now new allegations have surfaced that the same problems continue to fester at the center

After our investigation, “Revelations from Redfield,” where workers told us horror stories of getting hurt by residents there, a new director was named and the workers unionized for better safety.

But has it gotten safer for workers? We’ve discovered a staff shortage, of about 50 workers still exists; the same amount as in 2016.


The National Safety Council gave South Dakota an “F” when it comes to workplace safety. In the latest statistics available, 30 people died on the job in the state in 2017. 

There are dozens more injured every year. One place where injuries run high is the South Dakota Developmental Center.

“South Dakota Developmental Center is by far the most dangerous and has the most hostile management,” AFSCME Labor Representative Kooper Caraway said.

Kooper Caraway represents the union for more than half of the workers at SDDC.

58 employees were hurt last year.

“South Dakota is 47th in the nation when it comes to workplace safety. South Dakota workers die on the job that is over twice the rate of the national average. The practices that are going on at the South Dakota Developmental Center are going on in a lot of places across South Dakota,” Caraway said.

While the number of injuries averages 60 a year for SDDC employees, just nine needed emergency care last year. That’s down from 29 in 2016.

“There’s a new administration in Pierre; so we need to be a part of a bigger conversation on how to make all of our workplaces safer. Pierre has direct oversight over SDDC, so SDDC would be the perfect place to start implementing new safety procedures,” Caraway said.

Governor Kristi Noem says addressing the staffing shortages and turnover at SDDC, which can help contribute to injuries on the job, is one of the topics in her upcoming budget address.

“That is a tough situation and they are stressed and strapped and so looking at that and evaluating the best path forward and ways we can make sure they are supported, not just financially but also through programs and services they deliver is incredibly important,” Gov. Kristi Noem said.

Coming up tonight on KELOLAND News at 10, we introduce you to the former SDDC worker behind a new complaint of unfair labor practices filed with the Department of Labor.

“Not only are the individuals in a non-safe situation, the staff that the state doesn’t care about is in unsafe positions every day, Whitney Determan said.

Whitney Determan says after being injured on the job, SDDC management refused to allow the union to represent her and fired her. More Revelations from Redfield Wednesday at 10.

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