OSHA proposed a $137,250 penalty against AEPCo Inc. in Osceola, Ark., for failing to protect its employees from potentially fatal bloodborne pathogens.
AEPCo, whose controlling corporate office Commodore Medical Services of Tennessee is located in Nashville, employs approximately six employees at its warehouse facility in Osceola.
Employees pick up medical waste from hospitals, medical clinics, research facilities, funeral homes and veterinary clinics, then transport the waste to the company's warehouse utilizing an adjacent city-owned incinerator.
According to Paul J. Hansen Jr., OSHA's Little Rock area director, the alleged violations were discovered during a complaint inspection conducted between Aug. 4, 1999 and Jan. 21, 2000.
OSHA investigators determined that the company allowed employees to be exposed to harmful bloodborne pathogens.
Bloodborne pathogens can be contracted through contact with blood or other potentially infectious human tissues.
OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard requires that employees be protected from potential disease by a comprehensive program that includes safe work practices, personal protective equipment, training and medical care following an exposure.
The company was cited for 15 serious violations including, failure to provide suitable emergency eyewash facilities, personal protective equipment, and information to employees wearing respirators.
Other violations included not offering Hepatitis B vaccinations to employees and allowing employees to drink and eat in areas where there was likelihood of exposure to biohazardous wastes.
Hansen said that it is "incumbent upon employers to develop, implement and maintain safety and health programs that will provide protection to employees from the hazards that may be present in their workplace."
Employers or workers in Arkansas who have questions concerning safety and health may contact the Little Rock Area Office at (501) 324-291.