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Nursing Home Workers Exposed to Biological Hazards

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Mt Gilead, OH (WorkersCompensation.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Columbus-headquartered Atrium Centers LLC, which operates the Woodside Village Care Center in Mt. Gilead, with four health violations for exposing workers to biological hazards at the nursing care facility. OSHA conducted an inspection under the agency's National Emphasis Program for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities. Proposed penalties total $89,000.

"Nursing care facilities have a responsibility to protect both residents and staff from biological hazards often found in these environments. A facility cited for repeat violations demonstrates management's lack of commitment to safety," said Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo. "OSHA's national emphasis program for inspecting nursing and residential care facilities strengthens protections for society's caretakers."

One repeat violation involves failing to include in the facility's exposure control plan a list of tasks and procedures in which occupational exposure to biological hazards may occur. The company was cited for the same violation in March 2007 and September 2008 at the Essex of Springfield Care Center in Springfield. A second repeat violation involves failing to document annual evaluations of the exposure control plan and to implement safer needle devices as part of that evaluation. The company was cited for the same violation in March 2009 at the Royal Oak Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cleveland. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

One serious violation is failing to maintain an injury log for the recording of percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps as required by OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

One other-than-serious violation involves record keeping. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

OSHA initiated its National Emphasis Program for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities in April to protect workers from serious safety and health hazards that are common in medical industries. OSHA develops national emphasis programs to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in an industry for a three-year period. Through this program, OSHA is targeting nursing homes and residential care facilities to reduce occupational illnesses and injuries from exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material; exposure to communicable diseases such as tuberculosis; ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients; workplace violence; and slips, trips and falls. Workers also may be exposed to hazardous chemicals and drugs in these environments.

According to the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing and residential care facilities experienced one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illnesses of all major American industries in 2010, the latest data available.

Atrium Centers operates 43 skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Wisconsin. This inspection was OSHA's seventh of a facility operated by the company since 2003.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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