Not only doctors, but nurses and other staff who have direct contact with patients are at risk of contracting a serious or deadly illness. Hospital staff members who are tasked with cleaning rooms and doing the laundry are sometimes at greater risk of becoming injured at work. Most Colorado medical facilities ensure that safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of staff contracting a disease or illness under these circumstances, but not every medical facility does.
One hospital on the East Coast is currently facing fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration because its safety practices are woefully inadequate. The hospital reportedly changed from linen laundry bags to plastic ones that often break. When that happens, staff members are required to gather the bag contents and put them into a new bag.
Workers are exposed to any number of contagions when they are exposed to soiled clothes and linens. At this particular hospital in New York, workers are not even provided with safety gear to keep them from touching potentially hazardous materials with their bare hands. Moreover, they are breathing in airborne particles that were trapped in the bag before it broke.
Laundry workers filed a complaint with OSHA when their concerns were ignored by the hospital. OSHA’s investigation revealed that management personnel were aware of the issue but did nothing. Further, the hospital’s protocols regarding blood-borne pathogens were not up to current standards for any personnel — not just the laundry workers.
Colorado workers may understand the need to keep costs down, but not at the expense of their health. Every industry has some hazard that could lead to someone being injured at work, which is why there are rules, regulations and laws to help prevent accidents. When an accident occurs, however, employees may be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of medical care and loss of income while recovering. Depending on the circumstances, additional benefits may be available as well.
Source: NBC New York, “NYC Hospital Exposed Employees to Bloody Laundry, Tuberculosis: Feds“, Jan. 30, 2015