Judge Upholds Citations for Bloodborne Pathogen and Lead Exposure Hazards

UniFirst Corp. has been cited for the violations.

An administrative law judge from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that drivers and loading-dock workers at UniFirst Corp. were exposed to hazards that involved bloodborne pathogens and lead at its West Caldwell, N.J., facility, according to a release from OSHA.

"UniFirst's plain indifference to OSHA's requirements compromised the safety and health of its workers," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "The judge's decision in this case sends a strong message to UniFirst and other employers: Those who ignore their legal responsibility to provide safe and health workplaces for employees will be held accountable."

OSHA cited the company for violations of its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, including failure to conduct proper training and provide Hepatitis B vaccinations to drivers and loading-dock workers. These workers picked up and sorted dirty lab coats and other laundry from customers who regularly drew and/or tested blood. The workers were exposed to lab coats and laundry potentially contaminated with blood or improperly disposed of contaminated needles or syringes mixed in with the laundry. The company was also cited for exposing workers to lead hazards because employees were picking up laundry that had been contaminated with lead. UniFirst contested these citations.

Judge Carol Baumerich found that UniFirst's management routinely and intentionally falsified training sign-in sheets, intentionally required employees to sign training sign-in sheets without receiving training, forged signatures, and allowed training to be conducted by managers who were not competent in the subjects they taught. She also determined that the majority of the company's employees neither received the Hepatitis B vaccine nor signed the form declining the vaccine. In some cases, employees were not given the option to receive the vaccine for months, and in some instances years, upon gaining employment at the facility.

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