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April 4, 2008

Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital cited for hazardous workplace

TUMWATER — The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has fined a Clark County hospital for numerous violations of hygiene standards for failing to protect workers from hazardous exposures to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, and it can cause irreversible respiratory illness, as well as irritation and severe burns and sensitization.

Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital in Vancouver was cited for four “willful,” seven “serious” and one general violation of workplace hygiene rules involving training, handling, air sampling and monitoring, spill prevention and cleanup of formaldehyde, and medical evaluations of employees who were exposed. A “willful” violation is cited when L&I finds the employer intentionally or knowingly violated rules or knew that a violation was occurring and didn’t correct it.

Proposed penalties for the violations total $255,800.

The inspection began in September 2007, when an L&I inspector conducting an inspection at a pathology lab located in the hospital observed a hospital employee working with formaldehyde under circumstances indicating a possible overexposure, which was later confirmed.

The hospital was cited for failure to:

  • Provide training and information to employees who may work with formaldehyde.
  • Conduct airborne exposure evaluations, when required.
  • Control employee exposure to formaldehyde.
  • Include formaldehyde protection in the hospital’s respiratory protection program.
  • Ensure that formaldehyde spills were properly and safely cleaned up.
  • Provide an emergency eye wash in areas where formaldehyde was used or dispensed.
  • Provide medical evaluations to all employees who have been or will be exposed.
  • Establish exposure-control areas as required.
  • Develop a comprehensive chemical exposure plan to protect employees.
  • Develop an emergency response plan for chemical spills.
  • Train employees in emergency response to spills.

The company has 15 business days to appeal the citation.

L&I offers free workplace consultations, in addition to free workshops, videos, and online training to help employers meet safety and health requirements and promote safety in their workplaces. Learn more at www.Lni.wa.gov/Safety.

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For media information: Elaine Fischer, L&I, at 360-902-5413 or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.Lni.wa.gov/News.

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