A local dentist in California had switched from regular X-Ray to digital X-Ray and had some left-over X-Ray solutions (Fixer and Developer) in 1-gallon bottles that needed to be picked up. So, they called us to arrange for a pickup. We then dropped off 2 x 5-gallon containers, one for the fixer and one for the developer. We asked them to pour the content of all the fixer bottles into one and the developer into the other and we’ll pick them up in 2 days. The doctor decided to delegate this task to a brand-new assistant who had just been hired a week ago. She decides to pour the solution, Fixer, first and without using a funnel tries to pour it in to a 2-inch diameter hole and misses the hole thereby spilling the material on the lab floor. Then being nervous and embarrassed, she quickly grabs some paper towels and starts wiping up this hazardous material from the floor without any gloves, mask, or eye protection. Later that afternoon, she starts complaining about severe headache, nausea, and vomiting and is immediately sent to the emergency room. They never saw her again after that incident and 2 weeks later were visited by Cal-OSHA inspection. We were contacted on the day of their inspection and had no prior knowledge of this incident. But following our usual protocol, we rescheduled the inspection (something only we can do) and sent a consultant to their office. After hearing the whole story, we immediately conducted a training on Hazard Communication and went over the importance of training new hires thoroughly prior to their start and emphasized the training on how to look up a chemical in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Manual prior to cleaning up a spill. We then conducted our own inspection and got everything and everyone ready for the scheduled inspection. The result was a $7,000 fine for failing to provide proper training and $24,000 for not providing HBV vaccine to that staff member. We were able to negotiate this total down to $21,000.

Potential penalties avoided were estimated at over $125,000.

Important Takeaways:

There needs to be a mandatory training for all new hires that takes them through a checklist of important items they must become familiar with.
Prior to handling any chemicals, every individual staff must know how to look up its SDS, and read all the precautionary information such as Toxicity, health hazards to humans, spill cleanup instructions, PPEs required, First Aid, etc.

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