Rick Rice (L.A.)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Concluding its investigation into a February 19, 1994 incident in which mysterious vapors in the Riverside General Hospital emergency room were alleged to have caused several employees to collapse, Cal/OSHA today announced that it found no violations of occupational safety and health regulations related to the incident. Cal/OSHA did issue citations to the hospital for other violations not associated with the incident.
Cal/OSHA's inspection team conducted an exhaustive investigation to determine whether the hospital complied with all occupational safety and health requirements. The investigation consisted of in-depth private interviews of employees who participated in the treatment of the patient, were present in the emergency room at the time of the incident, or assisted in the treatment of hospital employees who were affected by the incident. The investigation also included an evaluation of the hospital's Injury and Illness Prevention Program and theimplementation of the program in the emergency room. Cal/OSHA also examined the hospital's Emergency Action Plan, and Bloodborne Pathogen Program, and the implementation of these programs in the emergency room. In addition, Cal/OSHA examined the use and storage of chemicals, medicines and drugs in the emergency room, and evaluated the emergency room's ventilation system and plumbing/sewer disposal system.
Cal/OSHA found no indication that the county-operated hospital violated any occupational safety or health regulations as they relate to the incident. As a result of inspecting the hospital, Cal/OSHA observed violations unrelated to the incident. As a result, three citations were issued concerning the following violations:
There are no civil penalties for these violations. As a public agency, the county cannot be assessed civil penalties by Cal/OSHA under state law.
During its investigation, Cal/OSHA found no evidence that the mysterious vapors in the emergency room were generated by the hospital's use and storage of chemicals, medicine/drugs, the ventilation system, or the sewage disposal system in the emergency room. The specific source of the ammonia-like vapors has not been identified.
Cal/OSHA's jurisdiction is limited to ensuring that all applicable occupational safety and health regulations were followed by the employer for the protection of employees. The California Department of Health Services has conducted a separate investigation into the incident and is finalizing its report.