Cal/OSHA Cites Kaiser $149,900 for Exposing Employees
to Infectious Disease: Collection Box for Used Needles
Frequently Overflowed

Dec. 3, 2015

Cal/OSHA today cited Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Vallejo $149,900 for
exposing workers to injury and infection from used needles at the hospital's
collection box for biomedical waste. At least three custodial employees have been
stuck by needles while attempting to empty the deposit box, which frequently
overflowed and prevented the lid from closing properly.

All three employees have been given prophylactic medication to prevent disease
or unwanted consequences. The first injury occurred in 2013 and the other two
this year.

"Cal/OSHA will always issue citations in cases where employers willfully disregard
employee health and safety," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "Kaiser should
have had safety measures in place before employees were injured."

Cal/OSHA cited Kaiser for five workplace safety violations of the bloodborne
pathogens standard, which requires employers to protect workers from coming
into contact with blood or other disease-carrying body fluids. Two of the violations
issued to Kaiser are classified as willful serious, as evidence shows that the
employer was aware that an unsafe or hazardous condition existed and made no
reasonable effort to eliminate the condition. The hazardous conditions were
corrected after Cal/OSHA's inspection.

"Hospital workers are exposed to known hazards on a daily basis, and their
employers have a responsibility to recognize these hazards and protect their
employees," said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial
Relations (DIR). Cal/OSHA, officially known as the Division of Occupational Safety
and Health, is a division of DIR.

Cal/OSHA's American Canyon office opened the investigation in June after
receiving a complaint. Kaiser members deposit their used needles through a
hinged slot on the metal box, which resembles a postal mailbox. The needles fall
into an inner plastic disposal box inside to contain biomedical waste. Employees
transferred the contents into a larger disposal container for collection by Kaiser's
waste hauling contractor.

Cal/OSHA investigators learned that employees were instructed to clean the box
using a broom and dustpan. When those tools proved inadequate, employees
had to reach into the box to remove spilled waste, even though needles were
often deposited without a protective cap.

Kaiser replaced the kiosk with two larger disposal units following Cal/OSHA's
inspection, and now requires they be monitored every 30 minutes.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in
almost every workplace in California. Cal/OSHA's Consultation Services Branch
provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations
to improve their health and safety programs. Employers should call (800)
963-9424 for assistance from Cal/OSHA Consultation Services.

Employees with work-related questions or complaints may contact DIR's Call
Center in English or Spanish at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734). The California
Workers' Information line at 866-924-9757 provides recorded information in
English and Spanish on a variety of work-related topics. Complaints can also be
filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

Members of the press may contact Erika Monterroza or Peter Melton at (510)
286-1161, and are encouraged to subscribe to get email alerts on DIR's press
releases or other departmental updates.

The California Department of Industrial Relations, established in 1927, protects
and improves the health, safety, and economic well-being of over 18 million wage
earners, and helps their employers comply with state labor laws. DIR is housed
within the Labor & Workforce Development Agency. For general inquiries, contact
DIR's Communications Call Center at 844-LABOR-DIR (844-522-6734) for help in
locating the appropriate division or program in our department.

SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA
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