News Brief

OSHA issues notices to West Haven, Connecticut VA Medical Center for exposing workers to new and recurring hazards

Employer name: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Connecticut Health Care System, 950 Campbell Ave., West Haven, CT 06516

Notices issued: On Dec. 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued notices to the medical center identifying 12 repeat, seven serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations.

Investigation findings: OSHA conducted an inspection under the agency's Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program which directs inspections to federal agency workplaces that report high numbers of lost time work cases.

The cited repeat violations include blocked or obstructed emergency exit routes; locked and unmarked emergency exits; lack of guardrails around open pits; absent or inadequate procedures, equipment, training and inspections to prevent the unintended activation of machinery during servicing or maintenance; inadequately protected bench grinders; and several electrical hazards.

The serious violations involve floors not maintained in dry and clean condition; unlabeled containers of potentially hazardous chemicals; damaged electrical cords; and failing to de-energize electrical circuits before working on them.

The repeat violations stem from similar violations cited between 2011 and 2015 at the West Haven medical center and at DVA facilities in Palo Alto, California, Bedford, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York.

As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, federal agencies must comply with the same health and safety standards as private sector employers. The federal agency equivalent of a private sector citation is the notice of an unhealthful or unsafe working condition, which informs agency officials of violations. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with its standards. However, the equivalent private-sector penalty for these violations would be $480,920.

Quote: "Department of Veterans Affairs' employees care for our nation's service members, veterans, their families and survivors. It is every employer's responsibility, including the VA's, to provide its employees with safe and healthful workplaces. Prompt and effective corrective action must be taken," said Robert Kowalski, OSHA's area director in Bridgeport.

View the notices: Here and here.

Next steps: 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.

Information: To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, 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 Bridgeport Area Office at 203-579-5581.

OSHA News Brief: 
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Ted Fitzgerald

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