04/08/12 — Safety and health officials investigating complaint at Cherry Hospital

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Safety and health officials investigating complaint at Cherry Hospital

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 8, 2012 1:50 AM

Cherry Hospital is once again under investigation, this time by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration division of the state Department of Labor. However, while officials with both Cherry Hospital and OSHA confirmed there is an open investigation that began on Feb. 10 following a complaint, neither would comment further, citing its ongoing status.

This current investigation, though, is coming on the heels of two others that saw citations issued on Feb. 9, totaling fines of $48,800. Those, a health investigation and a safety investigation, were opened on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, respectively.

And while neither of those involved direct patient care issues, nurses working in Cherry -- who asked to remain anonymous out of concern for their jobs -- say the current investigation does involve the number of attacks and injuries suffered by medical staff and their ability to safely respond when patients become agitated or aggressive. This is not the first time a complaint has been made to OSHA about workplace violence at Cherry, and while there are no specific OSHA rules concerning the issue, the division in the past has sent letters of concern to the state-run psychiatric facility.

OSHA officials said the investigation could take another one to two months to complete.

Cited in the two investigations closed in February were 17 serious and six non-serious findings. The serious findings involved:

* a storage area with only one exit for three connecting rooms and one point of egress from the main storage area to the outside

* an employee using a vertical sander without eye protection

* a lack of specific written lock-out, tag-out procedures for equipment such as the hardwired dishwasher in the kitchen and the motors and steam lines in the boiler rooms

* a lack of proper machine guarding on equipment such as drill presses

* contact surfaces of wheels, blotters and flanges on grinding machines were not flat and free for foreign material

* flexible cords and cables in the nutritional services area not protected from accidental damage

* unused openings in cabinets, boxes and fittings, such as on breaker panels in the kitchen area were not effectively closed.

* the lack of appropriate eye washing facilities in the U-2 canteen area and the Royster boiler room

* the lack of an appropriately reviewed and updated bloodborne pathogen and exposure control plan

* the lack of safe and effective medical devices designed to prevent exposure to contaminated needles

* the lack of employee input on effective engineering and work practice controls in areas such as drawing blood from patients

* the lack of proper labeling of containers with hazardous chemicals

* the lack of danger signs posted at permit spaces, including steam tunnels and cooling towers

* the lack of proper employer evaluation of rescuers' ability to respond to rescue summons in a timely manner in steam tunnels

* the lack of proper employer evaluation of rescuers' proficiency with rescue-related equipment in steam tunnels

* the lack of information about potential hazards provided by employers to rescuers when they entered steam tunnels

* a receptacle installed in a wet and damp location

The non-serious findings involved:

* a ladder that was missing the rubber feet for the legs

* an exit in the human resources building was not clearly marked

* a lack of training for maintenance department employees required to be first responders in chemical spills

* portable fire extinguishers not mounted, located, identified and easily accessible to employees in the dining room kitchen of the U-2 building, the reception area of the U-2 building, the Royster building boiler room and in the warehouse

* poor installment of electric equipment in the U-2 building dining area.

* the lack of a continuing, effective hearing conservation program for employees exposed to noise at 87.7 percent of the permissible daily dose.

Each of these citations was either abated immediately or by March 6, but neither Cherry or OSHA officials would comment further on these citations with the state psychiatric hospital appealing the fines, first through an informal conference where they could not come to a settlement, and currently to the independent OSHA Review Commission.