Experience Brings Results

Motel fined for workers stuck by tainted needles

Cleaning a hotel room? How dangerous can that be? All you have to do is strip and remake the bed, replace the towels and bathroom amenities and clean the floors, right?

There are more hazards than you might imagine and some of them can even be deadly. Hotel housekeeping staff who work in this environment probably appreciate just how dangerous their jobs can be, but the rest of us have a very limited view of the kinds of things that could be a source or toxic exposure and result in serious disability or death.

If you doubt it, all you have to do is look across the river from Portland to a motel in Vancouver. According to a recent report by Washington state Department of Labor and Industries, five workers at the facility just off Interstate 205 have suffered needle sticks from used hypodermic syringes while cleaning rooms.

Officials note that used needles can be the transmitters of HIV which causes AIDS, hepatitis B and also hepatitis C. Fortunately, none of the workers who suffered exposure appear to have contracted the diseases which could be disabling or fatal. If they do, however, and it was shown that the illness was the result of a work-related injury, workers' compensation might well be in order.

What state officials have done in this instance is fine the management of the motel more than $112,000. The citation alleges that not only did workers suffer needle sticks, but that the motel failed to equip rooms with safe disposal containers for contaminated needles, didn't provide stuck employees with vaccines against hepatitis C, and didn't give workers proper training in the use of potentially toxic cleaning chemicals.

The motel management says it will appeal the fines. The state says funds collected will be deposited in a pension fund for disabled workers and families of workers killed on the job.

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