Willful citations for tuberculosis exposure have been issued against two immigration detention facilities in Houston by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The alleged violations were discovered during an investigation by two Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) facilities. An employee complained that workers were being exposed to active tuberculosis (TB) from individuals brought into the two INS offices.
Thousands of undocumented individuals are processed through the INS detention facilities and stay an average of 48 to 72 hours. INS employees come into close contact with the individuals during apprehension, pat downs, transportation and interrogation. During transportation, INS employees are enclosed in confined spaces in vehicles and small rooms without personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators and masks.
OSHA determined that these employees have not been provided with PPE since 1996, nor received training on hazards associated with TB. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized this type of work as high hazard for exposure to TB.
While federal agencies are not assessed penalties by OSHA, the private-sector equivalent penalty would be $390,000.
by Todd Nighswonger