Region 6 News Release: USDL-OSHA-99-112-8-10
Tuesday, Aug. 10, 1999
Contact: Diana Petterson
PHONE: (214) 767-4776, ext. 222
HELENA LABORATORIES AGREES TO PAY $137,100 OSHA PENALTY FOR BLOODBORNE PATHOGEN VIOLATIONS
Helena Laboratories in Beaumont, Texas, has agreed to pay $137,100 in penalties proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for bloodborne pathogen violations, announced the U.S. Department of Labor.
Helena, which employs about 350 workers at its facility at 1530 Lindbergh Drive
in Beaumont, manufactures medical and surgical diagnostic equipment and/or instrumentation. Additionally, Helena employs about 1,000 workers nationwide.
OSHA's investigation began Feb. 11 when the Helena employee's union, Communication Workers of America, complaint alleged that employees were exposed to bloodborne pathogens in several departments including Colocare.
The investigation found that employees are exposed to occupational blood and or blood related products in the Colocare department where the Coloscreen diagnostic test kit is one of many diagnostic devices manufactured at the facility. The kit is used to detect fecal occult blood.
The exposure results from handling human hemoglobin. Human hemoglobin, a blood product, is a component of the diagnostic test kit. The employees working with the human hemoglobin were not included in the facility's exposure determinations as a part of their bloodborn pathogen program.
OSHA's bloodborne pathogen standard requires that employees be protected from potential disease by a comprehensive program that includes safe work practices, personal protective equipment, training, and medical care following an exposure.
OSHA cited the company for six violations of the the Bloodborne Pathogen Standard. These violations include a failure to utilize universal precautions; inadequate exposure determinations; failure to provide bloodborne pathogen training; failure to provide the Hepatitis B vaccine and post-exposure follow-up to employees potentially exposed; failure to provide regulated waste containers for the disposal of blood and/or blood related products; failure to provide appropriate personal protective equipment; failure to ensure that lables were propertly attached and inadequate documentation regarding training.
"Replacing human hemoglobin with bovine hemoglobin in the Colocare department, the company has corrected the hazard and eliminated exposing workers to health risks," said Ray Skinner, area director of the Houston south area office. Helena has also agreed to make other long term safety and health improvements, Skinner stated, which would continue to benefit the employees.
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