OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Region 1 News Release: 05-795-BOS / BOS 2005-106
Monday, May 9, 2005
Contact: John M. Chavez
Phone: (617) 565-2075
BOSTON -- The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has completed its investigation of researcher exposure to tularemia bacteria at Boston University and Boston Medical Center, Evans Biomedical Research Center. Three employees became ill following their exposure to a highly infectious strain of the bacteria during the course of their work.
According to Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree, her office conducted an investigation between Jan. 21 and April 27 after learning through media accounts of the exposures, which took place late last summer and early fall. OSHA has issued to Boston University and Boston Medical Center Corporation identical sets of citations alleging three serious violations each of OSHA's personal protective equipment standard, including: failure to ensure that all employees wore gloves and eye protection when working with tularemia live vaccine strain (LVS); failure to certify in writing the required workplace hazard assessment for work with tularemia LVS; and failure to retrain employees who were working with tularemia LVS and who were not using gloves and eye protection.
OSHA defines a serious violation as one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. The total proposed penalty for the alleged violations is $8,100.
Gordon also issued a letter of significant findings and recommendations to the director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at BU and Boston Medical Center recommending additional steps to eliminate or reduce hazards to employees at the Evans Biomedical Research Center Biosafety Level 2 laboratory working with attenuated biological agents, such as tularemia LVS, that have a highly infectious parent strain. Gordon's letter asks BU and Boston Medical Center to provide OSHA with progress reports on the employer's efforts to reduce employee exposure to biological materials.
"Employers who hire researchers to work with potentially infectious biological materials have a significant duty under the law to make every effort to ensure that their employees are protected at all times from exposure to such materials," Gordon said. "Proper training in the precautionary procedures to be followed, the use of personal protective equipment, and the use of safety equipment in the lab can help assure such protection."
Boston University and Boston Medical Center Corporation have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. OSHA's Braintree office can be reached at 617-565-6924.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
U.S. Labor Department (DOL) releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7765 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.
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