Flimsy hospital laundry bags exposed workers to bloodborne pathogens
New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center in Northern Manhattan last year 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 to an OSHA investigation, on July 15, 2014, which resulted in the hospital being cited for numerous violations of the agency's bloodborne pathogen standard. The standard details how employers protect their employees against exposure to blood, bodily fluids and other potentially infectious materials. The medical center faces $201,000 in proposed fines.
Management knew about the hazard
"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.
TB exposure as well
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*.