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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

OSHA News Release: [01/30/2015]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald or Andre J. Bowser
Phone Number: (617) 565-2075 or x2074
Email:
Fitzgerald.Edmund@dol.gov or Bowser.Andre.J@dol.gov
Release Number: 15-0083-NEW

New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center exposes employees to contaminated laundry, tuberculosis risks

Inspection yields numerous violations; $201K in proposed fines

NEW YORK — About a year ago, New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center in Northern Manhattan replaced linen laundry bags with thin plastic bags that broke and needlessly exposed workers to laundry contaminated with blood, bodily fluids and other infectious materials.

Clothing, sheets, towels and other soiled laundry spewed onto the floor of the basement when bags broke or failed to stay closed as they came down laundry chutes. Employees were further exposed as they gathered and repacked the laundry.

A complaint led the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate on July 15, 2014. OSHA identified numerous violations of its bloodborne pathogen standard,which details how employers protect their employees against exposure to blood, bodily fluids and other potentially infectious materials. Located at 622 W. 168th St., the medical center faces $201,000 in proposed fines.

"Management knew that these bags were deficient yet continued using them, even though they posed a potential health hazard for employees. This must change," said Kay Gee, OSHA's area director in Manhattan. "It's also disturbing that our inspection identified other instances of insufficient protection against bloodborne hazards."

OSHA also found the medical center failed to provide all exposed workers with protective gloves and outer garments; hand-washing facilities; a cleaning or decontamination schedule; and failed to provide employees with bloodborne hazard training appropriate to their education, literacy and language level.

The inspection cited how New York Presbyterian Hospital failed to screen incoming patients for an increased risk of tuberculosis. The hospital did not follow up with hospital employees exposed to active tuberculosis patients, contrary to its own infection control program and Centers for Disease Control guidelines for preventing transmission in health care settings.

These conditions prompted OSHA to cite New York Presbyterian Hospital, doing business as New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center, for two willful violations, 10 serious violations and one other violation of workplace health standards.

"These were needless and unacceptable deficiencies. New York Presbyterian Hospital must show that it has corrected these conditions and taken steps to prevent them from happening again. The health and well-being of its employees depend on it," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

The citations can be viewed here.

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

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 Manhattan Area Office at 212-620-3200.

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