Businesses have important decisions to make about operating efficiently and protecting the bottom line. But when those decisions put their workers' health and safety at risk, OSHA will draw the line. Our Utica readers need look no further for evidence of this than a recent story from New York-Presbyterian hospital.
The hospital, up until last year, had always used linen laundry bags when dropping patients' soiled hospital garments down the laundry chutes. These tough bags helped minimize the risk of laundry workers' exposure to clothing often contaminated with blood, waste, bodily fluids and similarly infectious matter. But last year, the hospital switched to flimsy plastic bags which would break open in the chutes.
OSHA has cited New York-Presbyterian for exposing its employees, as they handled the spilled clothing, to blood-borne illnesses including hepatitis B and C and even HIV. As the agency's investigation progressed, it also found that workers were being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation from oncology department clothing and other materials as well.
While fines against the hospital for these violations could top $70,000, those proceeds do not go to compensate workers who may have fallen ill or who are at increased risk of serious diseases due to their employer's negligence. Workers' compensation pays employees who get sick or injured on the job, but it's not always as simple as filing a claim and getting paid. A legal professional can help stand up for employees when their employers have put the company's bottom line above a serious commitment to workplace safety.
Source: Crain's New York Business, "New York-Presbyterian dirty laundry put workers at risk," Nicholas Wells and Irina Ivanova, Jan. 30, 2015