OSHA cites VA hospital in Little Rock with 15 safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock Wednesday with 15 safety violations posing hazards to hospital employees, according to an agency press release.

Upon receipt of a Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions citation, the hospital took immediate corrective action and rectified the violations that same day, avoiding $184,700 in penalties, according to the hospital.

The violations included, among others, not having adequate safety mechanisms on a table saw; not ensuring oxygen and acetylene cylinders have valve caps; failing to guard shafts, pulleys and belts; and failing to ensure contaminated needles were not recapped. All violations were noted over an inspection period between September 2015 and February 2016.

"John L. McClellan Veterans Memorial Hospital willfully and repeatedly exposed its employees to the dangers of electrocution, amputation, bloodborne pathogens and other hazards. That is unacceptable," OSHA's area director Carlos Reynolds said in a press release.

OSHA is alleging that the hospital demonstrated either an "intentional disregard" or a "plain indifference to employee safety and health," said OSHA deputy regional director Juan Rodriguez.

One hospital employee had suffered an injury related to a violation, hospital spokesman Melanie Sabik said. The employee had sustained an electrical shock and was treated, kept overnight for observation and returned to work the next day, Sabik said.

"To rectify these citations, policy changes for work practices, new signage, changes to the work environment and additional education for staff have been implemented," she said. The hospital has engaged outside engineers and experts to help ensure OSHA's findings have been appropriately mitigated.

"Whenever an issue is identified, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System takes immediate corrective action to ensure the safety of our veterans, visitors, and employees," Sabik said in an email on Thursday.

"We look forward to an informal meeting in the coming weeks with OSHA to further confirm that all our collective actions meet their regulatory standards," she added.

In the past five years, only one other Arkansas hospital has been cited and penalized for workplace violations. The Little River Memorial Hospital was cited in 2012 for exposing employees to blood-borne pathogens and was penalized $7,200, according to OSHA data.

Metro on 03/25/2016