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Kaiser Hospitals In Vallejo Fined $149,000 For Poor Used-Needle Disposal

VALLEJO (CBS SF) -- Kaiser Foundation Hospitals in Vallejo was fined nearly $150,000 Thursday for poor upkeep of needle collection boxes that led to at least three custodial employees being stuck with needles.

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health handed down the $149,000 in fines after discovering the unhygienic practices while investigating a complaint in June, Cal/OSHA officials said.

The investigation revealed that a needle deposit box, a metal box similar to a mailbox, was frequently overflowing, preventing the lid from closing properly.

Employees were instructed to clean the box using a broom and dustpan, but when that was ineffective, they had to reach into the box and remove spilled needles, according to Cal/OSHA.

The conditions led to one employee being stuck in 2013 and two more this year. They were all given prophylactic medication to prevent infection.

Since the inspection, Kaiser has replaced the disposal box with two larger units and now requires they be monitored every 30 minutes, Cal/OSHA officials said.

"Cal/OSHA will always issue citations in cases where employers willfully disregard employee health and safety," Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said in a statement. "Kaiser should have had safety measures in place before employees were injured."

The $149,000 is a penalty for five different citations Cal/OSHA issued for violations of the bloodborne pathogens standard, Cal/OSHA officials said.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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