Linens Mishandled: OSHA Fines NY Hospital 201K

Posted February 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced that New York Presbyterian-Columbia University Medical Center has been given 13 citations and fined $201,000 for exposing maintenance staff to potentially infected linen, according to a news report. A tipster told OSHA in July that the hospital had switched to thin plastic bags that broke open when they came down laundry chutes. Staff wound up handling broken laundry bags filled with bed sheets and towels that contained blood and bodily fluids, the report said.

As a result, OSHA found that staff – some of whom weren’t given plastic gloves – were needlessly exposed to bloodborne hazards. "Management knew that these bags were deficient yet continued using them," says OSHA official Kay Gee, in an online news report. Since the hospital was aware of the hazards caused by the broken laundry bags, two of those violations are considered “willful.”

OSHA also found the hospital didn’t screen patients for tuberculosis properly and failed to follow up with exposed employees. The hospital has issued a statement saying, “The health and safety of our patients and employees is always our paramount concern.” The hospital also said it disagrees with OSHA’s citations and will contest them. At this time, NYP-Columbia Medical Center has declined further comment. For additional details, see this news release from OSHA.

For training resources on the safe handling of bloodborne pathogens, see TRSA’s Precautions for Protection:Handling Soiled Healthcare Linens DVD, available in either English or Spanish.

Additional resources include:

TRSA’s Guide to High-Risk Bloodborne Pathogens (online publication)

Safety First! Handling Bloodborne Pathogens (webinar)