Monday, September 15, 2014

Medical center exposed workers to asbestos, other health hazards: OSHA

All employers must keep their workers safe, OSHA says.
Aleda E. Lutz Veterans Administration Medical Center employees in Saginaw were exposed to asbestos, bloodborne pathogens and unsafe operation of powered industrial vehicles, a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection found.

OSHA issued six notices of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions following the March 2014 inspection initiated as part of OSHA's Federal Agency Local Emphasis Program*.

"The Veterans Administration Medical Center failed to ensure that the facility was a safe and healthy workplace because it did not provide appropriate personal protective equipment or train employees how to keep themselves safe," said Larry M. Johnson, director of OSHA's Lansing Area Office.

"All employers, including federal employers, are responsible for knowing the hazards in their facilities. They must follow standards to protect worker safety and health."

OSHA's inspection found that officials failed to remove a broken, powered industrial vehicle from service, resulting in one repeat violation. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' facility in Battle Creek was cited for the same safety violation in 2013.

To issue notices for repeat violations, OSHA must issue at least one other notice for the same violation, within the same standard industrial classification code, at another agency establishment. Thousands of workers are injured every year, sometimes fatally, while operating powered industrial vehicles.

In addition, OSHA found five serious violations for failure to ensure employees wore masks and eye protection whenever they could expect exposure to splashes, spray, spatter or droplets of blood or other infectious material, and to ensure that work surfaces were properly decontaminated.

Facility officials did not ensure that powered industrial truck operators completed training successfully or that employees who performed housekeeping duties were provided asbestos awareness training. Additionally, the facility used a power strip that exceeded acceptable voltage levels.

A serious notice is issued 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.

As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, federal agencies must comply with the same safety standards as private sector employers.

The federal agency equivalent to a private sector citation is the notice of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions. A notice is used to inform establishment officials of violations of OSHA standards, alternate standards and 29 Code of Federal Regulations citable program elements.

OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with OSHA standards.

The medical center has 15 business days from receipt of its notices to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or appeal the notices by submitting a summary of the agency's position on the unresolved issues to OSHA's regional administrator.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Source: OSHA

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