OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
OSHA PROPOSES $186,000 PENALTIES AGAINST TEXAS LINEN SERVICE
A McKinney, Texas commercial laundry service that supplies clean linens to Dallas-area hospitals and restaurants is being cited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allegedly exposing employees to blood and other potentially infectious materials.
Harris Enterprises, d.b.a. Metro Linen Company, received a proposed fine of $186,000 as a result of an Oct. 7, 1998, inspection by OSHA officials who determined that the company failed to properly protect employees from potentially fatal bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens can be contracted through contact with blood or other potentially infectious human tissues. There are more than 10 such diseases, most notably Hepatitis B and HIV.
The employees, many of whom were Mexican and spoke little English, were not trained how to handle contaminated linens from hospitals that contained refuse such as used hypodermic needles, human tissue remnants such as blood clots, and in one instance, a human fetus.
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 with four willful and eight serious violations, and two other-than-serious violations. A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and or health of employees.
The four willful violations, which carry proposed penalties of $168,000, were for violations of the bloodborne pathogens standard. The eight serious violations and two other-than-serious violation, which resulted in proposed penalties of $17,000 and $1,000 respectively, were for safety and health deficiencies in emergency evacuation, machine guarding and hazardous chemical handling.
Metro Linen Company, which has 45 employees at its McKinney facility, was previously inspected by OSHA in 1987. Hazards identified in that inspection were unrelated to the current investigation.
The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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