Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 13:21:38 -0400
Reply-To: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: List Moderator <ecgrants**At_Symbol_Here**UVM.EDU>
Subject: College district appeals OSHA fines
Comments: To: SAFETY

I think this is a fairly common example of both IAQ investigations  
and OSHA enforcement visits can morph unpredictably. It's also  
interesting to have fine levels tied to specific violations...

- Ralph

College district appeals OSHA fines
By Heather Murtagh

Twenty-six health and safety violations totaling $29,700 in fines are  
being appealed by the San Mateo County Community College District  
which was cited after Cal/OSHA investigated science buildings at two  
local community colleges after six teachers complained of flu-like  
symptoms and three developed tumors.

Investigations were launched after six College of San Mateo teachers  
complained of respiratory problems and three Skyline College teachers  
developed a tumor over the past five years. The American Federation  
of Teachers Local 1493 requested help examining the claims, from the  
district office and the California Occupational Safety and Health  
Administration, after learning about the situations on Monday, Aug.  
28. Nothing was found linking the symptoms to the working conditions,  
however, other issues such as exposure to chemicals, exposed wires  
and up-to-date handling procedures were reported in early January.  
Jose Nu"ez, executive director of facilities, planning and operations  
for the San Mateo County Community College District, appealed all the  
findings, since many of the problems can be quickly fixed and others  
pertain to a building that won’t be used after 60 days. Nu"ez has  
until June 30 to make the changes.

Fourteen citations, totaling $22,500 in fines, were issued because of  
conditions at Skyline Building 7 — a science building which opened  
last semester. Fines reached up to $9,000 for a frayed electrical  
cord from a refrigerator containing flammable liquids. Other  
citations included $1,500 for exposure to formaldehyde vapors from  
cadavers. A couple violations addressed the exposure to formaldehyde  
and handling of other chemicals.

Twelve violations, totaling $7,200 in fines, were found at CSM  
Building 36 — a science building set to be renovated this summer.  
Again, exposure to formaldehyde was a major issue. Formaldehyde is  
classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental  
Protection Agency.

Many of the citations were repetitive, said Nu"ez who is in the  
process of addressing the issues.

Cal/OSHA was one of three groups that investigated the work  
conditions. Testing began after the complaints were made, said Nu"ez.  
A private firm of industrial hygienists, the Delani Group, conducted  
air quality tests finding high humidity in one area as the only  
problem, said John Kirk, AFT Local 1493 chief grievance officer. Kirk  
filed with Cal/OSHA, to ensure the safety of the staff.

“Now, at least, the faculty knows the conditions they should be  
working in,” he said.

Last year, six teachers working in the new science building at CSM  
complained of either laryngitis or conjunctivitis, also known as pink  

The building was thoroughly cleaned before it was opened to staff and  
students this semester. Air monitors were placed in the building to  
ensure the air is clean.

Staff at Skyline complained of more serious ailments. Three teachers  
working in the science building were diagnosed with a tumor over the  
past five or six years. One teacher developed a fatal brain tumor in  
the late 1990s. Two more recent cases involved teachers developing a  
benign — not cancerous — ear tumor.

Looking into environmental causes of cancer was handed off to the  
California Environmental Health Investigations Branch and the  
Northern California Cancer Center, which began working on the case  
Sept. 5. No link was found during the investigation. The center did  
suggest the situation continue to be monitored.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather**At_Symbol_Here**  
or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105. What do you think of this  
story? Send a letter to the editor: letters**At_Symbol_Here** 

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