US Labor Department's OSHA identifies 26 safety and health violations
at Veterans Affairs health care facilities in Northern California
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 26 notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions for violations found during inspections of four U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities. OSHA began the inspections during November 2011 at the VA hospital in Mather and at outpatient clinics in Martinez, Fairfield and Oakland. All are part of the VA's Northern California Health Care System.
"The safety hazards identified at these four clinics demonstrate a need for a renewed commitment by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a safe workplace for the VA employees who care for our nation's wounded and aging soldiers," said David Shiraishi, director of OSHA's Oakland Area Office.
OSHA issued notices for 23 serious violations involving blocked emergency exit doors and routes, multiple electrical hazards, a lack of proper machine guarding and exposure to contaminated needles. A serious violation occurs 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.
A notice also has been issued for a repeat violation involving the improper storage of biological hazardous waste. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A notice for a similar violation at the VA Medical Center in Long Beach was issued in 2011.
OSHA also has issued notices for two other-than-serious violations involving an incomplete written hazard communication program and failing to identify exit doors. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Under Executive Order 12196, federal agencies must comply with the same safety and health standards as private sector employers covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The federal agency equivalent to a private sector citation is the Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions. The OSHA 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 VA's Northern California Health Care System 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 its position on the unresolved issues to OSHA's regional administrator.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Oakland office at 510-637-3800.
Under Section 19 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and Executive Order 12196, the head of each agency is responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for his or her employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for all federal employees by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.