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News ::
OSHA cites Wingate for “serious” health and safety violations
24 Sep 2001
The Wingate at Wilbraham nursing home has been cited by OSHA for two “serious” violations of federal health and safety laws and written up for 5 record keeping violations.
“Needlestick” hazard citation is based on new regulation recently won by SEIU and other unions...

WILBRAHAM – After an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Wingate at Wilbraham nursing home has been cited for two “serious” violations of federal health and safety laws and written up for 5 record keeping violations.

OSHA inspectors found that Wingate managers had failed to provide proper engineering controls for nursing staff that would help to prevent needlestick injuries when they administer injections to residents.

An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 needlestick injuries occur each year - two thousand every day. These injuries lead to thousands of cases where health care workers contract hepatitis C or HIV.

OSHA’s new needlestick regulation was achieved after a three-year campaign led by SEIU and other unions to protect health care workers by requiring the use of safer needles in health facilities. A new federal law was passed and signed by President Clinton in 2000.

Inspectors also found that Wingate’s “Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses” (OSHA Form 200) had major deficiencies. The most serious was that managers had incorrectly entered data about painful wrist, arm and shoulder injuries caused by repetitive motions such as frequent lifting and lowering. Incorrect reporting of these injuries on the OSHA log tends to downplay the severity and extent of ergonomic problems in the industry.

Nationally, SEIU members in nursing homes are calling on the President to create a new ergonomics standard to protect workers from these kinds of injuries. President Bush killed the previous ergonomics standard last March.

OSHA also cited Wingate for improperly installing an electrical outlet in a wet or damp area, causing a serious electrical hazard. According to OSHA’s Springfield office, Wingate has already agreed to fix the cited problems.

“We know that working in a nursing home is one of the most dangerous jobs in America,” said Frieda Post, an LPN who is one of the union leaders at Wingate. “The safety of residents and staff is our highest priority. Without union back up, there is no hope for long-term solutions to the problems we’re facing in nursing homes.”

In addition to its occupational safety and health problems, Wingate at Wilbraham is also on a Massachusetts Department of Public Health “special focus” list because of a past history of serious problems with the quality of care. The National Labor Relations Board has also cited Wingate for multiple and repeated violations of labor law, including firing and suspending workers for union activity, and replacing experienced dedicated staff with temp agency workers.

Workers at the nursing home voted in February 1999 to join SEIU Local 285 to improve the quality of care at the home and deteriorating working conditions and staffing levels. Wingate has yet to come to an agreement on a first contract that would address these problems with its employees.

SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, represents 120,000 nursing home employees nationwide. With over 1.4 million members – including 715,000 in health care – SEIU is America’s largest and fastest-growing health care union.

SEIU Local 285 represents nursing home, hospital, mental health and other health care and public sector workers across Massachusetts. At Wingate at Wilbraham, the union represents nurses, nursing assistants, housekeepers, dietary employees, secretaries, and other employees.

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