MELROSE — Melrose-Wakefield Hospital administrators say they are coooperating fully with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration after agency inspectors found serious safety hazards inside the facility during an inspection last April.

As a result of the findings, Melrose-Wakefield’s parent company Hallmark Health could face fines totalling $28,000 if corrections aren’t made by the end of September.

Acting on a complaint about possible violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard, the federal health and safety organization opened its investigation on April 15. The standard prescribes safeguards to protect workers against the health hazards caused by bloodborne pathogens. The standard places requirements on employers whose workers can be reasonably anticipated to contact blood or other potentially infectious materials, such as unfixed human tissues and certain body fluids.

OSHA has cited the hospital for four serious violations of the standard and proposed fines totaling $28,000 against the employer. A serious violation is cited for a condition that can impact employee health or safety if it is not corrected.

In response to a televised report on CBS Boston’s Channel 4, hospital administrators said, “Melrose-Wakefield Hospital cooperated fully with OSHA’s requests for a site and information review. All issues identified have been resolved or are being addressed. We are reviewing the final report closely to address any additional opportunities for improved safety. We take employee safety and quality care very seriously, as evidenced by the recognition Hallmark Health has received by several organizations, including as one of the top workplaces in the region and the nation.”

The first OSHA citation came after inspectors reviewed the hospital’s Exposure Control Plan and found it did not document “annual consideration of appropriate commercially available and effective safer medical devices.” The hospital, according to OSHA inspectors, did not solicit input from non-managerial employees “responsible for direct patient care who are potentially exposed to injuries from contaminated sharps in the identification, evaluation and selection of effective engineering and work practice controls and did not document the solicitation in the Exposure Control Plan.”

The proposed penalty for that failure is $7,000.

The second citation was for failing to use proper practices in surgery and central sterile processing. “(S)urgical employees did not always disassemble and wipe down used surgical instruments and also utilize enzymatic detergent and/or foaming alternative prior to transporting in open or loosely covered basins. …” Also, inspectors found “contaminated instruments in open or loosely covered basins have become jostled and exposed (workers) to sharps and other bloodborne pathogen exposures as the utility cart is open and instruments fall out.”

The proposed penalty is another $7,000 fine.

In addition, “surgical employees placed surgical waste (such as excess blood, tissue, bone, feces and fat) into the same basins and used surgical instruments that were transported to central sterile processing. The basins were either loosely covered or had no cover.”
Also, bloodborne pathogens training “was conducted online, including evenings and weekend, with no opportunity for interactive questions or answers at the time the training is being performed.”

The final two violations also carry proposed $7,000 fines each.

The OSHA citations were issued Aug. 13 and the hospital had 15 business days to respond to them. Melrose-Wakefield’s options include meeting with OSHA, which could result in a settlement at the local level, which would include corrective action by the employer or it could contest the citations to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Regional industry giant Partners Healthcare is in the process of merging with Hallmark Health.