Kentucky State Health Department Closes Atwood Facility After Finding Serious Health and Safety Code Violations
In December 2013, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Division of Compliance, which is responsible for the enforcement of Kentucky's Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards, conducted an unannounced inspection at Kentucky State University’s (KSU) Atwood Research Facility. The inspection was prompted by a call I made to federal OSHA regarding potentially life-threatening healthy and safety issues. OSHA referred the complaint to Kentucky OSH who took over the investigation.
I did a room-by-room, lab-by-lab, office-by-office walkthrough of the building one morning last October. I created a detailed “roadmap” showing every potentially life threatening safety issue on all three floors of the building. I then provided my map to the State Health Inspectors. There was no real surprise here. Everybody from the President down to the Safety Director have known about the hazards in this building for years. In fact, the new College of Agriculture Dean, Tefiri Tsegaye, stated in an email that he accepted the position with the understanding that he was going to repair the Atwood research facility. That was three years ago. So I took action. I made the call. And now Tsegaye has been trying to find me for months.
Using my roadmap, OSH inspectors walked through the entire building, noting the various health and safety violations. My roadmap included details about ceiling leaks that were adjacent to electrical fixtures, extensive mold and mildew on all three floors, open electrical connections, fire alarms dangling from electrical wires, close proximity to explosives such as picric acid and radioactive chemicals, faulty fume hoods, defective emergency eye and body showers, and much more. What wasn’t discussed were the large numbers of cockroaches on all three floors, the fluctuating low and high interior temperatures (i.e., 90° F in the summer, and below 68° F in the winter), and the dangerous working conditions resulting from mismanagement of space.
On Friday, June 13, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Division of Compliance, mailed the code violations (nine of which were serious) to Kentucky State University. By Wednesday, June 18, 2014, notices were posted at the Chappell building, Aquaculture, and the Office of Extension buildings.
While the Health Department only fined the University $22,000, the cost to repair the building is in the millions. And, to quote others who spent years in that building, “Someone is watching out for us.” Now it’s time for you, the media, to do your part. Kentucky State University has been burying their bodies under the decaying building for decades. It’s time to start digging up the bodies and holding someone accountable. Raymond Burse, PhD, JD starts as the new Interim President on July 1, 2014. I hear that he is a no-nonsense player. Let’s hope that he cleans house and puts people in place who not only care about the health of the University, but the health of their human capital.
The full report detailing the results of the walkthrough are available from Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Division of Compliance. The following is a list of the citations that were posted on the buildings.
· 803 KAR 2:310 Section 2, Paragraph (1)
Section 2. If the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive material, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use. The facilities shall comply with the provisions of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z-358.1-1990, “Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment”, which is incorporated by reference, with the following exceptions:
Paragraph (1) In a remote area if a person is visibly or audibly separated from coworkers, an audible or visible alarm shall activate to alert appropriate personnel when the unit is in use, or in the alternative, a two (2) way communication device shall be used. The alarm shall continue until the unit is no longer in use.
The following can be found under Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, § 1904 and § 1910.
Compressed gases. The in-plant handling, storage, and utilization of all compressed gases in cylinders, portable tanks, rail tankcars, or motor vehicle cargo tanks shall be in accordance with Compressed Gas Association Pamphlet P-1-1965, which is incorporated by reference as specified in Sec. 1910.6.
The employer shall assure that portable fire extinguishers are subjected to an annual maintenance check. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. The employer shall record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. The record shall be available to the Assistant Secretary upon request.
The employer shall assure that stored pressure dry chemical extinguishers that require a 12-year hydrostatic test are emptied and subjected to applicable maintenance procedures every 6 years. Dry chemical extinguishers having non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement. When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the 6-year requirement begins from that date.
· 1910.1450(e)(1) Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories.
1910.1450(e)(1) Where hazardous chemicals as defined by this standard are used in the workplace, the employer shall develop and carry out the provisions of a written Chemical Hygiene Plan which is:
1910.1450(e)(1)(i) Capable of protecting employees from health hazards associated with hazardous chemicals in that laboratory and
1910.1450(e)(1)(ii) Capable of keeping exposures below the limits specified in paragraph (c) of this section.
Other than serious
1904.29(a) Basic requirement. You must use OSHA 300, 300-A, and 301 forms, or equivalent forms, for recordable injuries and illnesses. The OSHA 300 form is called the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, the 300-A is the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and the OSHA 301 form is called the Injury and Illness Incident Report.
1910.141(a)(3)(i) All places of employment shall be kept clean to the extent that the nature of the work allows.
1910.303(g)(1) Space about electric equipment. Sufficient access and working space shall be provided and maintained about all electric equipment to permit ready and safe operation and maintenance of such equipment.
1910.305(g)(1)(iv)(A) As a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure;