Cal/OSHA Cites Hospital Chain, Well Services Company

The agency has cited Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Vallejo, Calif., for exposing workers to injury and infection from used needles at a collection box for biomedical waste and also water well services company M&W Pumps, Inc. for failing to follow high-voltage safety orders.

Cal/OSHA has cited Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Vallejo, Calif., with penalties totaling $149,900 for exposing workers to injury and infection from used needles at a collection box for biomedical waste. At least three custodial employees have been stuck by needles while attempting to empty the box, which frequently overflowed and prevented the lid from closing properly, according to the agency, which reported all three employees have been treated. The first injury occurred in 2013 and the other two in 2015.

"Cal/OSHA will always issue citations in cases where employers willfully disregard employee health and safety," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, adding, "Kaiser should have had safety measures in place before employees were injured."

In a second case, Cal/OSHA cited water well services company M&W Pumps, Inc. from Santa Maria and proposed $16,895 in penalties for six violations, including one serious and one serious accident-related violation, having found M&W Pumps at fault for failing to follow high-voltage safety orders that require employers to notify the high-voltage power line company if equipment will approach closer than 10 feet. One worker was killed and another was seriously hurt in June 2015 when a pump hoist made contact with a overhead power line.

"When employers send their workers near overhead power lines with hoists or other high equipment, they must take special precautions to keep their workers safe. If M&W Pumps had put required safety measures in place, these workers' lives would not have been put at risk," Sum said.

The two victims were using the pump hoist June 6 to install an underground well on rural land east of Santa Maria. Cesar Montelongo-Pulido, a 21-year-old rig operator's assistant, was holding the hoist line while Daniel Moreno, a 25-year-old rig operator, manned the controls on the hoist. The pump hoist made contact with a 12,000-volt power line overhead, killing Montelongo-Pulido and injuring Moreno.

The Kaiser citations involved safety violations of the bloodborne pathogens standard, with two classified as willful serious because evidence showed the employer was aware that an unsafe or hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate the conditions, which were corrected after Cal/OSHA's inspection, the agency reported.

Kaiser installed two larger disposal units after the inspection and now requires they be monitored every 30 minutes.

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