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Building occupants might not realize it, but front-line technicians in institutional and commercial facilities regularly face on-the-job health and safety risks. From rooftop falls and powered equipment mishaps to arc-flash hazards, risks are part of many daily maintenance and engineering tasks, as technicians in one Arizona healthcare facility found out.
Federal safety inspectors found that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) endangered maintenance workers at its healthcare facility in Prescott, Arizona, by allowing them to work on steam lines without ensuring they followed required safety procedures.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified one willful violation and two repeated violations by the department’s Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System and issued three serious notices for exposing employees to burns and other serious injuries. OSHA identified the violations during an October 2022 inspection.
The findings come less than two years after a pair of workers died at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in West Haven, Connecticut, in November 2020 after suffering fatal burns while working on a steam line. In that case, OSHA cited similar violations to those found in Prescott.
“Despite the tragic and preventable deaths of two workers at a facility in Connecticut in 2020, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs allowed the same hazards to endanger employees working on steam lines at its Prescott, Arizona, facility,” says T. Zachary Barnett, OSHA area director in Phoenix.
During the inspection, OSHA inspectors determined the Prescott facility lacked energy-isolating procedures — also known as lockout/tagout — that are designed to prevent the release of hazardous energy when steam lines are being maintained or serviced. They found employees followed an ad-hoc process that did not meet OSHA requirements and that the facility failed to train workers on safety procedures.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.
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