BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Potentially dangerous medical waste traveling through the mail. It isn’t illegal, but an incident in Baltimore has triggered a massive fine.
Millions of letters and packages move through the postal system–some of them contain human medical samples and waste.
“It’s not illegal for them to send this type of material through the post office, it just has to be properly labeled,” said Nadira Janack, area director, OSHA.
Over the past year at a postal facility in South Baltimore, OSHA investigators found incidents where blood and other fluids leaked from packaging.
“When it came through, it started to leak. They had to clean up the area. So that’s how they got exposed to the bloodborne pathogen,” said Janack.
In the lab, special protective equipment is used when handling blood samples that contain disease carrying bacteria and viruses.
OSHA says no such protection was offered in South Baltimore, and has fined the Postal Service $342,000.
“There were just several instances where there was leakage and the employees were required to clean it up,” Janack said.
OSHA wants a control plan put in place at the facility, providing protective clothing and equipment, training and medical surveillance after exposure and worker access to hepatitis B vaccinations.
WJZ requested an on-camera interview, but the Postal Service would only issue a written statement:
“Safety and safe work place practices are of paramount importance to the Postal Service. The citations mentioned were just received at the local postal facility. We will review OSHA’s concerns and where necessary, make adjustments to ensure a safe working environment for our employees.”
OSHA did not report any postal workers becoming ill because of their exposure, but says the risk of illness–or even death–warranted taking action.
The Postal Service has 15 days to contact OSHA with a response.