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OSHA issues safety notices to VA for steam line hazards


Less than two years after two maintenance workers suffered fatal burns while working on a steam line at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Connecticut, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has again issued notices to the VA for similar violations.

OSHA said Monday that it identified one willful violation and two repeat violations at the Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona, and it issued three serious notices for exposing workers to burns and other injuries by allowing them to work on steam lines without implementing proper safety protocols.

The latest notices followed the November 2020 deaths of two maintenance workers who suffered steam burns at the VA health care facility in West Haven, Connecticut.

In the Arizona case, OSHA said inspectors found that the facility lacked energy-isolating procedures designed to prevent the release of hazardous energy when steam lines are being serviced.

Workers followed an “ad-hoc process” that did not meet federal workplace safety standards and the facility failed to train workers on proper safety procedures, according to OSHA.

Federal agencies must comply with the same safety standards as private sector employers covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

A private business cited for similar violations could face penalties of more than $315,000, OSHA said.

Federal agencies such as the VA are given notices of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions and are required to demonstrate that they remedied the hazards, but they are not assessed financial penalties.