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Abatement Requirements

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
71 Stevenson Street, Suite 420
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 975-4310
FAX: (415) 975-4319

April 8, 1999

<Name Withheld>

RE: Inspections resulting from the March, 1999, food poisoning outbreak.

Dear <Name Withheld>:

OSHA initiated the subject inspections on March 24, 1999, in response to an apparent food poisoning outbreak which occurred among garment workers who had eaten at the company cafeteria. As a result of the inspections, we identified the need for your company to expand its health programs as described below to minimize the risk of future outbreaks. Example elements for these programs are provided in the attached appendix.
  • Food Procurement Program to ensure food purchased for distribution to employees is free of harmful chemical and biological contamination.
  • Food Storage and Preparation Program to ensure food served to employees is stored and processed using safe practices to minimize food contamination.
  • Water Quality Program to ensure that employees are provided safe potable water for drinking, washing, and culinary purposes.
  • Medical Management Program, including the on-going analysis of accurately recorded illness records, to assist in the recognition, evaluation, and control of potential disease outbreaks and hazards.
  • Employee Hazard Identification Program to ensure that employees have an active role in reporting unsafe working conditions without fear of reprisal.
During our meeting of April 6, 1999, you concurred with our general recommendations and immediately assigned your safety and health staff to develop and implement specific programs to achieve the above stated objectives. We acknowledge your commitment to this effort and have decided to close out these specific inspections. However, as discussed during the meeting, it is our intention to monitor your timely progress toward full implementation of these programs through targeted follow-up inspections, as necessary. To expedite this process, please provide us with copies of company policies and procedures adopted to implement the needed programs. It is recognized that the programs may be implemented in phases, and will otherwise be updated as self-auditing identifies ways to improve their effectiveness.

For additional information, please contact me at (670) 323-1200 in Saipan or 415-975-4300 in San Francisco.

Sincerely,

Connie Hunt
Director

Appendix: Example Elements of Needed Health Programs

This appendix presents example elements which may be adopted within <Name Withheld> health programs to reduce the risk of water and food-borne diseases among company employees. It is noted that per the OSHAct, it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe working environment, including the responsibility of selecting and implementing program elements necessary to achieve that objective. This appendix is provided for informational purposes only to assist <Name Withheld> in the development of its health programs, and to give examples of some of the elements OSHA and the Department of Public Health expect to observe as they monitor the implementation of the company's programs. As with all safety programs, full implementation requires the adoption of appropriate policies and procedures for program training, enforcement, and periodic auditing to ensure program effectiveness.

Food Procurement Program to ensure food purchased for distribution to employees is free of harmful chemical and biological contamination. Example program elements to achieve this objective include the following:
  • Procurement will be limited to food stocks which have passed inspection to meet applicable government standards including those pertaining to quality, cleanliness, and the absence of pesticide residues and biological contamination. In the absence of established government testing, the company shall obtain commercial testing and/or implement in-house testing to ensure food quality.
  • Food stocks will be purchased from vendors who rigorously follow industry good practices in both production and quality assurance techniques.
  • Upon receiving, food stocks will be visually inspected to ensure quality was not compromised during storage and shipping.
Food Storage and Preparation Program to ensure food served to employees is stored and processed using safe practices to minimize food contamination. Example program elements to achieve this objective include the following:
  • The company will adopt recognized safe food handling and storage practices, such as those recommended by USDA, FDA, CDC, and public health organizations, as standard operating procedures. These organizations prescribe safe practices for a wide scope of food operations including specifications for food storage and cooking temperatures, dish washing temperatures and procedures, training and medical screening of food handlers, and appropriate cleaning procedures for food preparation surfaces and hand washing.
  • Food handlers will be adequately trained, medically screened, and will otherwise comply with applicable regulations to maintain current certification.
Water Quality Program to ensure that employees are provided safe potable water for drinking, washing, and culinary purposes. Example program elements to achieve this objective include the following:
  • Periodic testing of all water sources utilized by the company including those furnished to the company by <Company> as well as those obtained from company wells or other sources, to ensure compliance with standards published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and those enforced by the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The frequency of testing will depend on the water source and the results of previous tests. For example, initial weekly testing can be used to establish acceptable base line concentrations of indicator contaminants (such as total coliform and/or residual chlorine) for use in comparing future tests. Routine sampling may then be performed at longer intervals, such as monthly or even quarterly, as long as the results are consistent with base levels. When an excursion above base line levels occurs, more frequent sampling is again necessary to verify the excursion, assist in identifying its cause, and to verify the effectiveness of measures taken to bring the levels back to base line.
  • Periodic maintenance and testing of potable water systems within the facility will be conducted to ensure water quality. This must include cooperation with DEQ in identifying water system piping and distribution points to facilitate the design and implementation of an effective testing program and to establish an appropriate testing schedule (see above example regarding frequency of testing).
  • Training of employees will be provided regarding the cleaning and use of personal water containers, and ensuring adequate cleaning facilities are available and utilized.
  • Employees will be provided 24-hour access to adequate and convenient potable water.
Medical Management Program, including the on-going analysis of accurately recorded illness records to assist in the recognition, evaluation, and control of potential disease outbreaks and hazards. Example program elements to achieve this objective include the following:
  • Employees are instructed to report all illnesses as part of the company record-keeping program.
  • Epidemiologic analysis to establish base-line incident rates for common illnesses and injuries (e.g., diarrhea, flu, nausea, wrist and back strains, etc.), and on-going analysis to identify higher excursion rates which may indicate potential disease outbreaks and hazards. The cause of the excursion rates will be investigated and mitigating controls will be implemented as appropriate. Note: It is recognized that the existence of excursions does not constitute an OSHA violation -- only the failure to monitor the rates and respond appropriately when excessive rates occur.
  • Periodic medical screening (such as annual physicals, screening for communicable disease, etc. if appropriate) commensurate with good medical management recognizing the dependence of the foreign work population on the company for all medical care.
Employee Hazard Identification Program to ensure that employees have an active role in reporting unsafe working conditions without fear of reprisal. OSHA recognizes the primary role of employee hazard identification programs in ensuring a safe worksite since employees are usually the first to confront unsafe conditions. Example program elements to achieve this objective include the following:
  • Employees are trained to recognize potential hazards associated with both their work and living areas such as fire hazards and blocked egress.
  • A program should be implemented which encourages and responds to worker reports of unsafe conditions. The auditing of this program must be able to recognize when the absence of reports indicates a failure of the program in either identifying or reporting of hazards.