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Region 5 News Release: 11-1784-CHI
Jan. 18, 2012
Contact: Scott Allen      Rhonda Burke
Phone: 312-353-6976      312-353-6976
Email: allen.scott@dol.gov      burke.rhonda@dol.gov

US Department of Labor's OSHA issues notices to veterans health care
system of 19 safety and health violations found at St. Cloud, Minn., facility

ST. CLOUD, Minn. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 19 notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions found at the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Health Care System facility in St. Cloud, following a combined health and safety inspection conducted in July as part of OSHA's Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program.

"The St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Health Care System failed to properly ensure the facility was in compliance with established safety and health procedures," said Mark Hysell, director of OSHA's Eau Claire Area Office in Wisconsin. "All employers, including federal employers, are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their facilities and must take appropriate precautions by following OSHA standards so workers are not exposed to such risks."

Eight repeat safety violations involve failing to provide guardrails on open-sided platforms, keep exit routes free and unobstructed, evaluate the workplace to determine if permit-required confined spaces were present, implement and train workers in lockout procedures to control hazardous energy, provide training on specific powered industrial trucks, and provide workers with the necessary personal protective equipment for exposure to electrical shock and arc flash hazards.

Additionally, two repeat health violations involve failing to include the type or brand of sharps that were the cause of employees' exposure to blood or bodily fluids in the sharps log, and failing to train housekeeping staff on the specific location of asbestos in their assigned work areas.

To issue notices for repeat violations, an OSHA agency wide inspection history must list a previous notice issued within the past five years to an establishment within the same standard industrial classification code, commonly known as the SIC code. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Minneapolis, Minn.; Chicago, Ill.; and Dayton, Ohio, previously have been cited for the same safety and health violations.

Six serious safety violations involve failing to provide personal protective equipment during chainsaw use; provide mats where wet processes were used; develop, document and implement safe permit space entry operations for hydraulic elevator pits; verify machines were de-energized prior to performing maintenance; use eye protection when required; and use lockout devices to control energy sources. 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.

Three other-than-serious violations involve failing to place a warning sign at the entrance of a mechanical room containing energized electrical parts, have a written schedule for cleaning and decontamination for surfaces routinely contaminated with blood and conduct an initial exposure assessment of vinyl tile removal activities. 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.

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 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 the agency's 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, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Eau Claire Area Office at 715-832-9019.

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.


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