A health and safety audit at the University of Miami found "...widespread lack of information, training, control measures and protective equipment have put both workers and building occupants at high risk for serious injury and/or illness," according to PRNewswire. SEIU Local 11 commissioned and financed the audit after reports in Boston of similar deficiencies led to an incident that took the life of one worker and left another seriously injured.

The violations are so pervasive and widespread, and the danger to the public and workers so great, that SEIU Local 11 has filed formal charges with OSHA and is calling on the University of Miami to immediately convene an emergency meeting between student representatives, workers, clergy and the union to develop an emergency plan to ensure that the campus and hospital are safe for workers, students and the public.

According to the report, "...a strong, industrial strength metal cleaner [Big K] was being mixed with other chemicals and also sprayed in some locations are serious indicators of a failed program. These are not failures of individuals, but is the failure of UNICCO to have a system to promote an effective health and safety program at the University of Miami facilities."

UNICCO provides janitorial services in several states including Florida, Connecticut, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts.

The report found that the Lack of effective training and poor compliance with OSHA requirements created a serious hazard in several key areas:

  • General Health and Safety Program was found to be inadequate to protect workers and building occupants. There was little or no training on the general safety program. Worker interviews revealed that most did not know where or how to find out the most basic information required to do their jobs safely. Only 14 percent of the workers surveyed were trained in what to do in the case of an emergency. This included lack of information regarding chemical safety, protective measures and procedures, and other safety related items. Personal protective equipment useful in these jobs was only provided to 38 percent of the workers surveyed.
  • Hazardous Chemicals. Problems included the lack of hazard communication training and information and the lack of protective measures being used to safeguard workers and building occupants. Only 14 percent of the workers surveyed knew what type of gloves to wear when handling the chemicals they use on the job.
  • Bloodborne Disease Issues. Most custodial work involves potential exposure to bloodborne materials or "other potentially infectious materials" as defined by OSHA. Until very recently [November 2005], custodial workers under UNICCO were not given training nor the opportunity to be immunized against Hepatitis B. At the time of the survey, worker reports indicated that vaccinations had not been made available to all workers eligible. Of the workers who reported that they clean blood, only 25 percent were trained on the safe methods of doing this job.