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Wal-Mart cited over bloodborne pathogen workplace risks

Wal-Mart cited over bloodborne pathogen workplace risks

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing new citations and proposed fines totaling $118,800 from federal health and safety regulators — despite a 2013 corporate-wide settlement agreement — in part for failing to properly train and protect employees working with bloodborne pathogens.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors cited the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer for repeat and serious workplace safety violations at the Walmart Supercenter on Mobile Highway in Florida, the agency said Wednesday in a statement.

The repeat citations are for failing to provide hepatitis B vaccinations to workers designated to clean up blood spills and for not ensuring workers understood the symptoms and control measures for the disease, according to the release. Wal-Mart was also cited for failing to maintain unobstructed access to the disconnect box and panel for the baler and trash compactor — the same violations the company was cited for in 2013 at a New York location.

The serious citations were due to the failure to annually train workers designated to clean up blood spills on the dangers of bloodborne pathogens, provide employees with sufficient working space to avoid contact with live electrical wires and protect them from exposure to shock and burn hazards.

OSHA and the company had reached a corporate-wide settlement in 2013 that required Wal-Mart to pay $190,000 in fines and abate hazards by, among other actions, equipping each trash compactor with an interlock device that would ensure the compactor would only run when the chute door was closed, according to the agreement, which allowed the agency to conduct inspections at company locations.

“The bloodborne pathogen and safe access violations were previously cited and also covered in the settlement agreement, yet employees are still being exposed to these hazards,” Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in the Jacksonville, Florida office, said in a statement. “It is very frustrating to see that these hazards continue to exist and is a clear indication management is not actively involved in the safety and health program.”

“We have blood borne pathogen safety processes in place at this store and in fact at all of our facilities across the country,” the company said in a statement. “We are a little confused by this as we took steps two years ago to strengthen our practices on this issue and informed OSHA of those steps. OSHA never raised concern over our corrective actions. We will respond to the citations as appropriate, but want our customers and associates to know that their safety has been and always will be critical to us.”

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