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Lax needlestick reporting, disposal lead to fines for hospital

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California regulators have cited and fined a San Francisco-based health care provider $44,125 for exposing its employees to bloodborne pathogens hazards.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited Dignity Health, operator of Northridge Hospital Medical Center, for safety and health violations that exposed the hospital’s 1,700 employees to hazards, according to a news release issued by the agency on Monday. The violations include a failure to record information in 18 cases where hospital workers were stuck with needles and failure to provide closeable containers in emergency rooms that would keep biohazard waste from spilling out, according to the release.

Cal/OSHA launched an investigation in June after receiving a complaint and found 13 health code violations, including four serious violations of the bloodborne pathogens standard, which requires employers to protect workers from coming into contact with blood or other disease-carrying body fluids. The hospital failed to gather information required by the Sharps Injury Log and failed to provide containers to prevent spillage or protrusion of contaminated needles in emergency treatment and trauma rooms, according to the release. The hospital did not provide readily accessible hand-washing facilities for emergency room employees or appropriately-sized gloves for employees using the medication cart in the trauma room and the after-hours intake area, according to the agency.

Cal/OSHA also cited Dignity Health for keeping broken gurneys in the working area, skipping essential elements of training employees in safe patient handling and failing to take corrective action after accidents occurred.

“California’s health and safety requirements are some of the strongest in the nation, and they’re meant to prevent hospital workers from becoming hospital patients,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, said in a statement.

A hospital spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.