Veterans center violated workers safety codes

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City was slapped with 17 violations of worker safety codes following a months-long inspection and analysis conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year.

The violations could have brought fines of more than $150,000 if the veterans agency were a private business.

A.J. Reid, acting director of OSHA's Portland office, said the VA center was expected to submit documentation this week proving that all of the violation issues have been corrected.

According to a statement released by the SORCC, all 17 issues, which included a lack of adequate controls for infectious diseases and an insufficient plan for protecting workers from contacting infected blood, have been resolved.

The facility also was written up for not providing its employees who are at risk of exposure to HIV with sufficient access to rapid HIV tests, for improperly storing medical waste and for a series of maintenance violations, Reid said.

The Associated Press reported that staff members at the VA center were not given protective clothing and goggles when providing chemotherapy treatment.

Reid described 10 of the 17 violations as "serious."

"A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known," she said.

Reid said maintenance violations at the facility included electrical problems, floor holes in a kitchen area and no railings on exposed stairways.

She said the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA on-site inspection was conducted in April and May 2013, and concluded after several months of subsequent case analysis.

"The serious and recurring nature of these violations warrant concern, and the hazards demonstrate a need for renewed commitment by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a consistently safe workplace for their employees," Reid said.

In its statement, SORCC said it "has a long standing culture that values maintaining a very safe and healthy environment for all who work, reside and visit the organization."

Unlike the financial penalties it can levy on private businesses, OSHA does not fine federal agencies such as the VA center.

However, Reid said, "if they were a private sector employee, the penalties for the same violations that we issued would be at the $153,000 mark."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email Follow him at

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