OSHA Sounds the Alarm on Ambulance Service

OSHA says an ambulance service should have known better when it failed to provide employees with all required safeguards to protect against bloodborne pathogens.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says an ambulance service should have known better when it failed to provide all required safeguards, including the Hepatitis B vaccine, to protect employees against bloodborne pathogens. Those lapses resulted in $60,100 in proposed fines against the Salem, Mass.-based ambulance service.

Following inspections conducted in response to employee complaints by OSHA, Northshore Ambulance was cited for alleged willful and serious violations at its facilities in Salem, Peabody, Swampscott and Beverly, Mass.

"To protect workers who are exposed to bloodborne pathogens, employers must follow stringent procedures. Our inspection found that key health standards were not being met," said Richard Fazzio, OSHA area director for Northeastern Massachusetts.

"Northshore Ambulance did not supply employees with Hepatitis B vaccine in a timely manner and also failed to dispose of regulated waste in accordance with health regulations," he said. "As an ambulance carrier, this employer knew these requirements yet apparently chose to ignore them. Therefore, we are issuing a willful citation and proposing a $44,000 fine."

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

A fine of $16,100 is proposed for 11 alleged serious violations, including failure to provide workers with initial bloodborne pathogen training; lack of decontamination procedures; failure to supply face shields and protective clothing; failure to launder contaminated uniforms; lack of containers or areas to dispose of contaminated materials; and failure to review its exposure control plan. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

edited by Sandy Smith

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