Safety Alert: University of WA at NW and Montlake cited with serious violation
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 properlyprovide “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 firstname.lastname@example.org 206.575.7979 ext. 3039. For UWMC Montlake, contact Ed Zercher at email@example.com 206 – 575 7979 ext. 3022.
In Unity! Sara Frey JD, BSN, RN Ed Zercher BSN, RN
If you find yourself in a situation that you believe creates unsafe conditions for patients or for you, you should complete a Staffing Complaint / ADO Form as soon as possible.
By completing the form, you will help make the problem known to management, creating an opportunity for the problem to be addressed. Additionally, you will be documenting the facts, which may be helpful to you later if there is a negative outcome.
WSNA also uses your ADO forms to track the problems occurring in your facility. When you and your coworkers take the important step of filling out an ADO form, you are helping to identify whether there is a pattern of unsafe conditions for you or your patients at your facilities. This information is used by your conference committee, staffing committee, and WSNA labor staff to improve your working conditions.
If called into a meeting with management, read the following to management when the meeting begins:
If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, I respectfully request that my union representative be present at this meeting. Without representation present, I choose not to participate in this discussion.