US Department of Labor's OSHA cites veterans health care center
in North Chicago, Ill., for 33 safety and health violations
NORTH CHICAGO, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions at a veterans health care center in North Chicago.
"The health care center failed to properly ensure the facility was in compliance with established safety and health procedures," said Diane Turek, director for OSHA's Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines. "Employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their facilities and must take appropriate precautions by following OSHA standards to ensure that workers are not exposed to such risks."
The notices cover seven repeat safety violations: not having standard guardrails on open sided floors; exits not marked and exit doors requiring keys or special knowledge to open; failing to conduct periodic energy control inspections; using working space around electrical equipment for storage; failing to ensure electrical conductor boxes were closed; and not inspecting portable electric equipment.
Additionally, one notice was issued for a repeat health violation: failing to include the type/brand of sharps that were the cause of employees' exposure to blood or bodily fluids in the sharps log.
OSHA issues a repeat notice if a federal agency previously has been cited for the same or a substantially similar serious condition and if a region-wide inspection history for the agency lists a previous notice issued within the past three years. Veterans affairs facilities in Minneapolis, Minn., and Becksville, Ohio, previously were cited for the same safety violations. The same health violation was previously cited at a veterans affairs facility in Minneapolis. There was one previous OSHA safety inspection at the North Chicago site within the past five years, which resulted in two serious violations.
The North Chicago health care center also received notices for 11 serious safety violations: a lack of guardrails on stairs and elevated runways; failing to keep exit routes free and unobstructed; failing to properly mark doors along an exit route and post signs indicating travel route to an exit; failing to use electrical equipment in accordance with labeling; failing to provide rating markings on electrical equipment; and failing to protect flexible cords and cables from accidental damage. 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.
Further, the medical center received notices for nine serious health violations related to bloodborne pathogens and asbestos, including: failure to provide asbestos signs and labels for mechanical rooms and insulated surfaces; failure to provide two hours of asbestos awareness training; not informing employees through training of the location of asbestos-insulated surfaces; not providing employees with occupational exposure to blood the hepatitis B Vaccine and not including a description of the site's bloodborne pathogen exposure control plan in the training program.
The facility also received five other-than-serious health notices for failure to report sharps injuries on the OSHA 300 log; having an incomplete OSHA 300 Log and annual recordkeeping summary; and failing to have a copy of the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard available for employee use.
At the time the latest inspections were initiated in August and September 2010, the center was under the sole direction of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Effective Oct. 1, 2010, the center was renamed the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center and became the first fully-integrated federal health care facility under the partnership of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense. OSHA's inspections were conducted as part of the OSHA Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program.
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 the 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. These inspections were conducted by OSHA's Chicago North Area Office.
To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency's toll-free hotline at 800-321-6742. 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 http://www.osha.gov.
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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.