Some occupations in the state of California require that individuals work with dangerous pathogens. Last year, a worker at a San Francisco VA center died after being exposed to deadly bacteria. Details surrounding the man’s death are unclear, but the man was reportedly working with Neisseria meningitides in an unsafe environment. Normally pathogens of this sort are contained in a biosafety cabinet, protecting employees who may have to handle it. The man’s injury on the job, which ultimately led to his death, resulted in an OSHA inspection.

After OSHA stepped in, the local VA received citations for three serious violations. Reports state that the VA did not require their workers to implement safety enclosures when working with viable cultures. The center also did not provide employees training on how to recognize the symptoms of a serious illness after exposure to the bacteria (meningitis, in this case), and also failed to ensure that employees had access to vaccines for workers who may have been exposed.

Serious violations issued by OSHA result when an employer either knew or should have realized that death or other harm could come to an employee as a result of the actions being investigated. OSHA requires federal agencies to adhere to the same standards concerning safety that the private sectors use. The VA is required to take corrective action as a result of the citations, but they have a stipulated number of business days to comply, appeal or request to meet with the local OSHA director.

California federal employees are entitled to a safe workplace, and any injury on the job could result in a claim for workers’ compensation. Being exposed to airborne pathogens could result in serious illness or even death, but by the time it is caught, it could be too late for that employee. This man’s injury on the job eventually resulted in an illness that took his life. If he has left behind loved ones, they may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation. The benefit could help soften the blow of their loved one’s unexpected death and help them as they try to deal with the grief and financial issues associated with their loss.

Source: WorkersCompensation.com, “San Francisco VA Research Lab Cited After Employee Dies,” Feb. 21, 2013