Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) Investigation of Safety Complaint #

Nurses deserve the appro­priate PPE to safely care for our patients in this pandemic and on Wednesday January 6, the state agency that inves­ti­gates workplace safety viola­tions agreed with nurses that the UW failed in its respon­si­bility to provide a safe and healthy work environ­ment. WSNA initially reached out to the UW in order to try to call their atten­tion to this issue and resolve it, however, it was apparent that the UW did not intend to comply with the state require­ments.

WSNA filed a DOSH complaint after members complained that the UW was not providing PPE per the Dept. of Health and Labor and Indus­tries Joint Hazard Alert that requires that nurses who enter the room of a patient with a suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV‑2 infec­tion must follow Standard Precau­tions and use a NIOSH-approved N95 or equiv­a­lent or higher-level respi­rator, gown, gloves, and eye protec­tion.” The UW, per its own policy and admis­sion, was only providing N95s when aerosol gener­ating proce­dures were being performed. Addition­ally, a group of nurses at NW have been required to work in an office setting at worksta­tions in viola­tion of the required social distancing per the Hazard Alert. Several nurse members were inter­viewed by DOSH as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion that wrapped up Wednesday with a closing confer­ence. The willing­ness of nurses to speak out and work with your union in identi­fying workplace hazards resulted in an impor­tant finding and citation against the UW.

At the conclu­sion of its inves­ti­ga­tion, DOSH classi­fied UW’s failure to properly​provide employees with N95” and failure to provide social distancing” as directed by the Joint Hazard Alert a​“serious” viola­tion of the law. WSNA antic­i­pates DOSH will issue a formal Citation shortly, under which the UW would be subject to a monetary penalty and have 10 days to take correc­tive action. Any Citation must be posted for three (3) working days, or until the viola­tion has been corrected. The UW may appeal this finding.

WSNA believes, based on conver­sa­tion in the closing confer­ence, that UW will appeal this decision. DOSH did take into account the N95s, equiv­a­lent or higher stock on hand at the time of the complaint in making this deter­mi­na­tion. Addition­ally, the UW indicated that at this time, that supplies are suffi­cient and there­fore, they must provide nurses with the required PPE when working with COVID positive or suspected positive patients. In fact, the Joint Hazard Alert requires that nurse must wear the appro­priate PPE. It is also believed that the UW has options to place the nurses, whose worksta­tions are in viola­tion of social distancing require­ment, in an area that will conform to the Hazard Alert require­ments. WSNA is quite concerned that the UW has been and appears to continue to fight L&I and the DOH instead of protecting its workers. WSNA will continue to keep you informed. Should you be denied appro­priate PPE or have other concerns or questions related to the DOSH inves­ti­ga­tion or the Joint Hazard Alert, please contact your Nurse Repre­sen­ta­tive.

WSNA members continue to monitor and report on workplace safety viola­tions in Local Units across the state. If neces­sary WSNA will file complaints with DOSH to protect the health and safety of nurse members. If you are concerned for your safety at work or if you have any questions or concerns, contact any of your Local Unit Officers or Nurse Repre­sen­ta­tive. For UWMC NW, contact Sara Frey at sfrey@wsna.org 206.575.7979 ext. 3039. For UWMC Montlake, contact Ed Zercher at ezercher@wsna.org 206 – 575 7979 ext. 3022.

In Unity!
Sara Frey JD, BSN, RN
Ed Zercher BSN, RN