In 2011, a surprising number of DOSH’s biggest fines were issued against public agencies. The targets ranged from state hospitals and colleges to law enforcement and utility companies. Let’s take a look at the causes for these citations and the financial losses incurred:
CA Dept. of Mental Health/Napa State Hospital
In some environments, workers are exposed to hazards that are especially unpredictable and difficult to control – other human beings. But there are still safety measures that can reduce the risk of injury in these situations. The security and emergency response measures at the Napa State Hospital were demonstrated to be woefully inadequate on two separate occasions last year. In a June incident, an employee suffered a severe head injury while escorting a patient off the ward. Just two months before, another patient choked an employee to death. The fines for these willful and serious violations of workplace safety protocol totaled over $117,000. However being known as an employer that is unable to keep workers safe from being attacked and killed at work is likely to cause far more harm to the hospital over the long run.
Oakland Police and Fire Departments
These two agencies both violated the same OSHA standard – the safety rules for Aerosol Transmissible Disease. One Oakland police officer underwent emergency hospitalization and treatment after contracting bacterial meningitis. The fines for both agencies added up to more than $34,000. Do you know of a sister agency that has recently been cited by DOSH? That’s a good indication that you should review your own safety program and practices for compliance.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
Here’s another agency that got hit with DOSH fines twice in 2011; but one incident actually dated back to 2007. A grad student was severely burned by ethanol that ignited during a flame sterilization procedure. The accident wasn’t reported, but DOSH discovered it later. On top of this, a complaint inspection in April of 2011 turned up 16 violations. The price for these hidden sins? Almost $100,000. This cautionary tale should remind public employers that failure to report one accident may lead to much greater scrutiny in the future. Once you are on DOSH’s “naughty” list, the inspections just keep on coming.
California Department of Water Resources
An employee was seriously injured when he was sucked over the edge of a concrete platform. During the accident, he was struck repeatedly by tools and other flying debris traveling at speeds in excess of 100 mph. The energy dispersion ring that should have prevented this emergency had been damaged back in 1968 and apparently never fixed. The accident that happened at the Hyatt Power Facility was foreseeable according to a study (including video) that clearly demonstrated work was unsafe without the energy ring in place. The agency is probably wishing they had used some of the $141,375 dollars they now owe in fines to help fund a replacement for this safety device!