OSHA Safety Violations At Veterans’ Medical Center Reminder To Manage OSHA Compliance

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued seven notices of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions found at the Battle Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center, following a safety inspection conducted in July as part of OSHA’s Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program.  OSHA’s announcement of the citations highlights the need for all health care and other employers to manage safety compliance.

“The Battle Creek Veterans Administration Medical Center failed to properly ensure the facility was in compliance with established safety and health procedures,” said Robert Bonack, director of OSHA’s Lansing Area Office. “All employers, including federal employers, are responsible for knowing what hazards exist in their facilities and taking appropriate precautions by following OSHA standards so workers are not exposed to such hazards.”

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, federal agencies must comply with the same safety standards as private-sector employers.  According to OSHA, its inspection uncovered several repeat safety violations, as well as certain other serious safety violations.

OSHA reports that three repeat safety violations involved failing to evaluate the workplace to identify if permit-required confined spaces were present and label such spaces with danger signs; failing to adequately guard automated laundry equipment to prevent employees from entering the work area, and failing to fully guard the belt and pulley of an air compressor. To issue notices for repeat violations, OSHA must have issued at least one other notice for the same violation at one of the agency’s establishments within the same standard industrial classification code, commonly known as the SIC code. OSHA previously has cited U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Danville and North Chicago, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota for the same safety and health violations.

The serious safety violations found included three serious safety violations for unguarded floor openings in the general repair shop; failing to inspect powered industrial trucks prior to placing them in service, and failing to remove trucks from service in need of repair. Additionally, OSHA found a circuit breaker panel was not mounted correctly. OSHA issues a serious notice when it finds a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Beyond the repeat and serious violations, OSHA reports it also found one other-than-serious violation for failing to close unused openings on electrical cabinets and junction boxes. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The medical center has 15 business days from receipt of the notices to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or appeal the notices by submitting a summary of the agency’s position on the unresolved issues to OSHA’s regional administrator.

While the medical center and other federal agencies are required to comply with the same OSHA rules as private sector employers, the VA and other federal agencies don’t face the same liabilities when cited.  OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with OSHA standards.

Since private sector employers that don’t enjoy the VA’s immunity liability run much greater risks for failing to maintain workplace safety, including significant civil and in the case of a workplace death, potentially even criminal penalties, private sector hospitals and other organizations should exercise special care to ensure appropriate safety in their workplaces.

 The risks for private sector employers is illustrated by another recent OSHA.  OSHA recently cited Riddell All-American Sports Co. with eight serious violations following an OSHA investigation, which found that the company exposed workers to multiple safety and health hazards at its San Antonio facility. The violations include failing to ensure electrical equipment was free from recognized hazards, provide adequate machine guarding while employees operate industrial sewing machines and provide a fall protection program to prevent falls from the basket of a powered industrial truck. The Elyria, Ohio-based company, which employs about 25 workers in San Antonio, paints helmets for various sports. Proposed penalties total $44,000. Read the News Release.

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need assistance reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer compliance and risk management policies and to respond to DEA and other health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns including a number of programs and publications on OCR Civil Rights rules and enforcement actions. Her insights on these and other related matters appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to ask about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information about this communication click here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.   ©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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