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Suit filed after researcher gets infected with bacteria, dies

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cracked down on a medical center associated with Veterans Affairs after the death of a 25-year-old research worker in April 2012. The man passed away after becoming infected by a bacterium he was working with, Neisseria meningitidis. According to OSHA, his infection and subsequent death may have been prevented by the VA medical center had the facility been obeying federal workers' regulations. Recently, a wrongful death suit was filed by his family.

According to a statement issued by the federal regulator in February, OSHA found three serious violations at the medical center. The agency even said that the 25-year-old died because the VA failed to protect and supervise the lab workers properly. An OSHA official added that research facilities are responsible for making sure that researchers are protected from the things they are researching so they do not put their lives on the line.

The three serious violations revealed during the investigation included failing to provide available vaccinations for workers potentially exposed to bacteria, failing to provide proper training on the symptoms of illnesses that could be contracted due to exposure, and failing to require workers to use a safety enclosure when performing work with a viable culture. Interestingly, a safety enclosure was found in the lab but was not used by researchers. OSHA cited the VA center but cannot force it to pay a fine because it is a federal entity. Still, federal law says that federal facilities must meet the same standards as private employers.

Workers and researchers in Ohio may find themselves in a similar situation as the 25-year-old from this article. If you have been injured or infected by an on-the-job accident or exposure, reach out to a lawyer that specializes in workers' compensation so that you can attempt to recuperate the physical, emotional and financial losses that your unexpected condition can, has, and will cause. The wrongful death suit in this case is seeking more than $20 million.

Source:  Science, "Suit Brought for Wrongful Death of Lab Worker" Beryl Lieff Benderly, May. 10, 2013

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