News Release USDL: 95-404
Tuesday, October 3, 1995
Contact: Susan Hall Fleming, (202) 219-8151
OSHA Proposes $168,875 In Penalties Against Newark, N.J., Health
Facility For Failure To Correct TB, Formaldehyde Hazards
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) has cited United Health Care System,
Newark, N.J., for failing to correct previously cited violations
involving worker exposure to tuberculosis and formaldehyde and
for additional alleged serious hazards. OSHA proposed total
penalties of $168,875.
"Clearly, even initial, first-instance OSHA penalties are
not sufficient to prod some employers into protecting their
workers from obvious workplace hazards," said Assistant Secretary
of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear.
"Still, some in Congress want OSHA to take on merely an advisory
role, eliminating any threat of penalties for employers who
correct problems once OSHA finds them.
"But crippling OSHA encourages every employer to wait until
after an inspection to fix problems. In the past 25 years, we've
cut the occupational fatality rate in half. Congress is sending
the wrong message to America's employers."
The hospital, formerly known as United Hospitals Medical
Center, has until Oct. 24 to contest the seven instances of
failure to abate previously cited violations and the nine new
alleged serious violations found during the follow-up inspection,
which began April 17.
In its citations against United Health Care System, OSHA
alleges that the hospital did not correct several hazards found
in an initial inspection conducted from June 23 through Dec. 1,
1994. The hospital failed to install negative-pressure
ventilation in tuberculosis isolation rooms, which potentially
exposed health care workers to TB infection. Moreover, the
employer did not provide proper respiratory protection to workers
caring for TB patients in isolation rooms.
"OSHA is deeply concerned about the public health problems
posed by tuberculosis, which is one of the most serious risks to
health care workers. It saddens us to see a health care employer
ignoring this risk and failing to take reasonable steps to
protect employees," Dear said.
The hospital also failed to train personnel to respond
properly to an emergency spill of formaldehyde. On at least two
occasions employees had been exposed to the dangers of
formaldehyde spills. The most recent incident resulted in the
emergency treatment of five employees.
The failure-to-abate notices carry a total proposed penalty
OSHA also cited United Health Care system for nine alleged
serious violations following its most recent inspection,
Not providing negative-pressure ventilation for a tuberculosis
patient recovery room;
not providing proper training and equipment to employees designated
to respond to spills of hazardous material;
not requiring employees to wear proper respirators when entering rooms
with a high risk of tuberculosis exposure;
not requiring employees to properly fit-test their respirators;
not preparing a written emergency respiratory protection program;
not properly training employees about the health hazards of
not properly guarding machinery.
The alleged serious violations carry a total proposed
penalty of $17,500.
A failure-to-abate violation is a notice of an additional
penalty issued against an employer who has not corrected a
violation that has become a final order of the Occupational
Safety and Health Review Commission. A serious violation is
defined as a condition where there is a substantial probability
that death or serious physical harm could result.