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West Virginia prison employees risk bloodborne pathogen exposure

OSHA Enforcement ActivityCorrectional officers and other staff at McDowell medium-security federal prison in Welch, West Virginia were potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens and other workplace safety and health hazards, according to OSHA, which has issued notices to the Federal Correctional Institution at McDowell, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"Federal prison employees are often exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials. It is imperative that employers take every reasonable precaution to protect these workers against these types of safety and health hazards," said Prentice Cline, director of OSHA's Charleston Area Office.

Ten serious violations were identified, including the agency's failure to:

  • Train employees on the bloodborne pathogens policy and limitations of personal protective equipment.
  • Ensure the person conducting training was knowledgeable about the subject.
  • Use puncture-resistant containers to transport contaminated shanks and other sharps.
  • Provide health care professionals, who evaluate an employee following an exposure, a copy of the bloodborne pathogens regulation, the exposed employee's duties, documentation of the route of exposure or its circumstances, and medical records relevant to treatment of the employee.
  • Select and require puncture-resistant gloves while conducting pat-down operations.

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.

As required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, federal agencies must comply with the same health and safety standards as private sector employers. The federal agency equivalent of a private sector citation is the notice of an unhealthful or unsafe working condition, which informs agency officials of violations. OSHA cannot propose monetary penalties against another federal agency for failure to comply with its standards.

This was the first OSHA inspection of the McDowell facility.

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