An “Insufficient Culture of Safety” Permeates the Workplace

On June 13, over 80 employees at the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Bioterror Laboratory were exposed to anthrax. Workers had unknowingly sent live anthrax samples to other CDC labs. Live anthrax is a huge health risk. Though not contagious, active bacteria can multiply, produce toxins, and cause severe illness via inhalation or contact with a contaminated material.

A USDA investigation of the situation revealed that the lab’s anthrax had been stored in improperly labeled and unlocked refrigerators. For the cleanup, employees utilized expired disinfectant. Exposed workers were not given preventative antibiotics and vaccines until five days after the incident. Containment guidelines went unheeded, and contaminated materials were transported in Ziploc bags, instead of protective containers. Fortunately, if not by miracle alone, no one in the lab has reported illness. The head of that lab is reported to have resigned.

Less than a month later, yet another federal health agency was called out on acts of negligence. Over 300 vials of disease improperly stored bacteria and viruses were found at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. Two of these vials contained live smallpox, a disease responsible for an estimated 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. The most shocking part is that the samples had been sitting in storage since the early 1960s, unnoticed for nearly fifty years.

Both situations are, ironically, shocking acts of carelessness for organizations that house some of the world’s most secure laboratories.

Working in such a high-risk place, you’d think that would warrant stringently followed, comprehensive safety policies. Safety protocol is created to minimize and prevent injury to workers. A government organization, the CDC did not follow even its own protocol.

Many of us assume that our employers effectively keep dangerous materials under tight restrictions and security, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. What you don’t know can harm you. Worker’s compensation claims exist when an employee is injured on the job, regardless of fault.

McAleer Law helps injured workers obtain the medical treatment and compensation they deserve. If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job, give us a call at (404) 622-5337. Follow us on Facebook for regular updates.