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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today alerted the President and Congress that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has yet to remedy serious occupational safety hazards at its West Haven, Connecticut hospital following a fatal accident two years prior.
On November 13, 2020, two VA employees conducting maintenance on the West Haven VA boiler system died after a steam explosion at the facility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) subsequently issued a “Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions" to the facility, finding serious, willful, and repeat violations of occupational safety standards for the control of hazardous energy. The West Haven VA was required to abate the violations cited by OSHA by June 29, 2021. However, a whistleblower disclosed to OSC that West Haven VA leadership failed to do so and that life-threatening hazards remain.
An investigation by the VA substantiated the whistleblower's allegations, finding that West Haven VA employees do not follow standard safety procedures to control hazardous energy from the main branch steam line and facility steam stations, and do not receive adequate training on those procedures. In response, the agency issued 18 recommendations for corrective action to the West Haven VA and Veterans Integrated Services Network 1.
“It is unacceptable that life-threatening safety hazards remain in place at the West Haven VA despite numerous calls for the agency to correct them," said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “I thank the whistleblower for disclosing these serious allegations. OSC will follow up with the agency to ensure that the recommendations are fully implemented."