OSHA: Hospital Workers Exposed to Contaminated Laundry

OSHA has cited a New York City hospital after an investigation found workers were exposed to laundry contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, and other infectious materials. Approximately one year ago, the Manhattan hospital allegedly replaced linen laundry bags with thin plastic bags that broke, exposing workers to health hazards. 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. OSHA cited the hospital with 13 willful, serious and health standard violations and proposed $201,000 in 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 conducted the investigation in response to a complaint and identified several violations of the agency’s bloodborne pathogen standard and found that the hospital failed to screen incoming patients for an increased risk of tuberculosis. Additionally, the medical center allegedly failed to provide all exposed workers with protective gloves and outer garments, hand-washing facilities, a cleaning or decontamination schedule, and bloodborne hazard training appropriate to workers’ education, literacy, and language level.

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