News Release: USDL 98-485
Friday, December 4, 1998
Contact: Michael Fluharty, (202) 693-1999
GEORGIA RESEARCH CENTER TO IMPROVE SAFETY CONDITIONS;
PAY $66,400 IN SETTLING OSHA CASE FOLLOWING EMPLOYEE'S DEATH
The Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center will make extensive safety and health improvements to settle an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) case, Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman announced today.
The case stemmed from a 1997 investigation of the death of an employee at the Atlanta, Ga. research facility. Yerkes will also pay $66,400 in penalties for violations of job safety and health standards.
"Settling this case avoids prolonged litigation and ensures that Yerkes' employees receive full safety and health protection as soon as possible. Correcting hazards and preventing future tragedies is our primary focus," said Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
The technician who died, Elizabeth Griffin, 22, was working in Yerkes' field station in Lawrenceville, Ga. She contracted what proved to be a fatal Herpes B virus infection when her eye was splashed with a monkey's body fluid.
OSHA investigated and originally proposed penalties of $105,300 after citing Yerkes for a series of violations. By law, OSHA citations are for violations of standards, not for the consequences of the violations, such as injuries, illnesses or fatalities.
"It is important that Yerkes do all it can to prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again," Jeffress said. "Yerkes has promised to take extensive precautions including training, monitoring and recordkeeping to meet that goal."
Among the precautions are establishment of a training program for employees on the risks of exposure to Herpes B virus and what should be done if an exposure occurs; review of incident logs and employee medical records to monitor any trends in the facility; review of medical management methods and reporting of injuries or illnesses related to working with nonhuman primates; and clarification of reporting procedures on exposure incidents to make sure employees receive prompt medical care and followup. The nurse and other licensed care professionals who receive the initial reports of exposure are to work directly with a physician with knowledge of diseases carried by nonhuman primates.
Yerkes agreed to hire a safety director whose duties will include systematic review of existing programs that involve employee exposure to nonhuman primates and any new programs; recommending engineering, work practice and administrative controls to reduce or eliminate employee exposures, and evaluating the effectiveness of the controls.
Yerkes also will require its employees to wear adequate goggles and/or face shields at all times when working in animal areas.
Yerkes also said it has abated all the cited hazards and is withdrawing its notice of contest to amended citations and penalties.
In exchange for the concessions made by Yerkes, OSHA agreed to downgrade its characterization of the violations. OSHA also agreed to reduce the amount of penalties.
The settlement was filed today in Atlanta with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Terms of the settlement become final once approved by the Commission.
The text of this news release is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov.
Information on this news release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-693-1999.