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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [09/11/2012]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald or Andre J. Bowser
Phone Number: (617) 565-2075 or x2074
Release Number: 12-1828-NEW

Jamaica, NY, apartment community cited by US Labor Department's OSHA for repeat and serious violations after 2 workers hospitalized

Rochdale Village faces more than $116,000 in proposed fines

QUEENS, N.Y. — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Rochdale Village Inc. for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards after two maintenance employees were hospitalized for accidentally inhaling a powder pesticide. The apartment community, located in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, faces a total of $116,400 in proposed fines following an inspection by OSHA's Queens District Office.

The employees — who were permitted to enter nonventilated compactor rooms to bag garbage after powder pesticide had been applied — lacked adequate respiratory protection, effective training and information to protect themselves from pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. OSHA found that Rochdale Village failed to conduct a workplace hazard assessment that would have identified these hazards. In addition, employees who changed air conditioning filters in the apartment complex lacked adequate respiratory protection.

These conditions have resulted in citations carrying $71,500 in penalties for three repeat violations. 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. Rochdale Village was cited for similar hazards in January 2010.

"While these workers were released from the hospital the same day, this incident should not have occurred in the first place," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director for Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.

"OSHA has cited Rochdale Village for similar hazards in the past. The recurrence of such conditions speaks to the need for the employer to address these hazards promptly, effectively and permanently."

Citations carrying $44,900 in penalties have been issued for seven serious violations after OSHA determined that employees who worked with caustic and hazardous chemicals in the compactor and chemical storage rooms lacked eye and hand protection, as well as emergency eyewash stations, and that Rochdale Village failed to both conduct an assessment to identify such hazards and evaluate confined space hazards associated with crawlspaces in which plumbers and handymen routinely worked. Additionally, employees who bagged garbage, and thus were exposed to needles and debris, were not subject to an exposure control plan and other safeguards to protect them from bloodborne pathogens. 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.

"An effective illness and injury prevention program in which employees and managers work together to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions can prevent injuries from occurring in the first place," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator for New York.

Rochdale Village Inc. has 15 days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/RochdaleVillages_citations.pdf.

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 Queens office at 718-279-9060.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are eligible 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.