Thursday, November 1, 2012

Massachusetts medical provider cited by OSHA after workers exposed to biohazards

A medical service provider in Newton, Massachusetts has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for an alleged  "willful and serious violation" of workplace safety standards after an OSHA inspection revealed that workers were being exposed to biohazards. The proposed penalties for New England Hematology/Oncology Associates PC, is over  $46,000.

An inspection was made in April in response to complaints by medical workers that the needles used to treat cancer patients were not safety-engineered devices and that, in removing the needles, workers were at risk of needlestick injuries. OSHA found that the workers were potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens from needlesticks because safer needle systems, such as automatically sheathing needles, were not used.

OSHA also found that the medical provider had been made aware by workers that a safer needle system was needed but continued to use a system that was not engineered to reduce the risk of injury.

"The willful violation exists because the employer initially agreed to address the issue, as required by the regulation, but did not follow through," said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA's area director in Andover. "This medical provider put workers at risk of coming into contact with needlestick injuries because it failed to use the safest technology available to them."

OSHA also has issued a citation with a $4,900 fine for one serious violation that involves failing to review and update an exposure control plan; document the evaluation and implementation of appropriate, commercially available and effective medical devices designed to minimize occupational bloodborne pathogen exposure; and document employees' hepatitis B vaccination status. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.


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