Blood in­ci­dents prompt OSHA to fine Brook­lyn Postal Ser­vice site $342,000

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Sarah Gantz sarah.gantz@balt­sun.com

A U.S. Postal Ser­vice an­nex in Bal­ti­more’s Brook­lyn neigh­bor­hood has been fined $342,059 by the U.S. De­part­ment of La­bor for im­prop­erly han­dling work­ers’ ex­po­sure to blood­borne pathogens and haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als.

The la­bor de­part­ment’s Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced Thurs­day that it cited the Brook­lyn South Car­rier An­nex, at 1500 Cherry Hill Road, on Nov. 22 for one se­ri­ous, two will­ful and three re­peat health vi­o­la­tions.

As part of its mail stream, the post of­fice some­times han­dles pack­ages la­beled as bi­o­log­i­cal in­fec­tious waste, an OSHA spokeswom­an­said. If not pack­aged prop­erly, or if they are dam­aged dur­ing sort­ing, such pack­ages could start to leak and postal work­ers would be re­quired to re­spond.

While it’s le­gal to ship haz­ardous blood through the post of­fice, the ship­per and the pack­ag­ing must meet strict re­quire­ments for safety.

“Ex­po­sure to blood­borne pathogen haz­ards can re­sult in se­ri­ous or life-threat­en­ing ill­nesses,” Nadira Janack, direc­tor at OSHA’s Bal­ti­more area of­fice, said in a state­ment. “To re­duce or elim­i­nate these haz­ards at USPS’s Brook­lyn fa­cil­ity, an ex­po­sure con­trol plan must be im­ple­mented to pro­tect em­ploy­ees and pro­vide a safe and healthy work­place.”

OSHA opened its in­ves­ti­ga­tion May 24, in re­sponse to a com­plaint that em­ploy­ees had been ex­posed to blood and other po­ten­tially in­fec­tious bod­ily flu­ids while han­dling pack­ages la­beled as con­tain­ing bi­o­log­i­cal in­fec­tious ma­te­ri­als.

Ac­cord­ing to the ci­ta­tion, the of­fice did not have writ­ten in­struc­tions for work­ers re­spon­si­ble for han­dling and clean­ing up bio­haz­ard pack­ages that are stained or leak­ing. Man­agers also did not of­fer hep­ati­tis B vac­cines to af­fected em­ploy­ees.

The of­fice also did not en­sure em­ploy­ees were prop­erly trained to han­dle the chem­i­cals used to clean up the spill and did not main­tain proper data safety sheets.

The se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion re­lates to an Oct. 27 in­ci­dent in which work­ers were ex­posed to blood­borne pathogens when they had to clean up a blood spill from a pack­age. The gloves work­ers were given were ei­ther too big or too small, and prop­erly sized gloves were not eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, the ci­ta­tion says.

In ad­di­tion to pay­ing the fine, the post of­fice must cor­rect the prob­lems and sub­mit proof to OSHA.

The post of­fice has 15 days af­ter the ci­ta­tion is is­sued to com­ply with the penal­ties, re­quest a con­fer­ence with an OSHA direc­tor or dis­pute the find­ings be­fore the Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Re­view Com­mis­sion, an in­de­pen­dent board.

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