PORTLAND, Ore. -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a notice of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions for 17 violations found during inspections of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility in White City, Oregon. OSHA began the inspections in April as a part of a Local Emphasis Program, which includes the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics. OSHA's Portland Area Office has conducted 15 inspections of VA medical facilities in Oregon in the last five years, resulting in 20 repeat and 39 serious violations.
OSHA issued notices for 10 serious violations including: lack of adequate controls for infectious disease; inadequate exposure control plan, which potentially exposed transitional work employees to bloodborne pathogens; and lack of access to rapid HIV tests after occupational exposures. Additionally, the inspection found improperly stored sharps containers and flammable materials, and negligence in maintaining facilities. 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.
Five repeat safety violations were also identified. The site had not reviewed or updated its annual bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan to determine if safer medical devices could have replaced existing devices not equipped with inherent safety features. Employees were also found administering treatments without the appropriate personal protection equipment. Other repeat violations included: lack of training in the use of powered industrial trucks, lack of protective barriers from steam lines and unguarded saw blades. 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.
'The serious and recurring nature of the violations warrant concern,' said Andrea J. Reid, acting director of OSHA's Portland Area Office. 'These hazards demonstrate a need for a renewed commitment by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a consistently safe workplace, beginning with adequate annual reviews of safety and health programs.'
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 a notice of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions, informing agency officials of OSHA violations and citable program elements of 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1960 - Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs. Unlike the private sector, OSHA does not impose penalties to federal agencies. However, the equivalent private-sector penalty for these violations would be $153,000. The medical center has 15 business days from receipt of OSHA's notice to comply or request an informal conference with OSHA's Area Director.
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 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Portland Area Office at (503) 231-2017. 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 the safety and health of all federal employees by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.