Statement of Charles N. Jeffress
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
December 1, 1998
Contact: Bonnie Friedman (202)693-1999
STATEMENT ON YERKES CASE BY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR
FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH CHARLES N. JEFFRESS
The tragic death of a researcher at the Yerkes research center in Atlanta last December reminds us all that job safety and health can never be taken for granted. Safeguards must be in place, and protections must be taken. Ensuring the well being of America's workers is OSHA's top priority, and we will continue to do everything we can to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities throughout the nation. In the case of Elizabeth Griffin, our hearts continue to go out to her family whom we know still misses and mourns her.
On April 27, 1998, OSHA proposed penalties of $105,300 against the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center. Yerkes had the right to appeal our citations, and it did so. The case was scheduled to be heard before an Administrative Law Judge on Dec. 2. However, OSHA and Yerkes have worked together to reach a settlement. A tentative agreement has been reached but must be approved by the Administrative Law Judge before it is final.
The proposed settlement upholds the principle that research laboratories must protect their employees from contact with animal fluids and requires Emory University to pay a significant penalty for failing to have appropriate safeguards in place.
We welcome the resolution of this case and hope it will help remind others working in research and other occupations that safety and health must be a top priority on any job site.