AFGE Locals to File OSHA Complaints Against VA for Telling Workers to Bring Their Own Hand Sanitizer

Categories: VA, The Insider, Coronavirus

AFGE locals are filing health and safety complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against the Department of Veterans Affairs for failing to provide appropriate equipment to protect workers against the coronavirus outbreak.

As the number of confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases at the VA has risen to 130 with two deaths, VA employees at certain VA facilities were alarmed that management told them to bring their own hand sanitizer to the work site. Nurses, doctors and other employees are also being told by the administration at certain VA hospitals that the agency is short on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves needed to treat veterans with the COVID-19.

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Section 5(a)(1) and 29 CFR 1960.8, federal employing agencies are required to furnish employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” the locals said in their complaints. “The agency is guilty of violating 29 CFR 1960.8 in that the employer has not provided appropriate PPE and other recommended protections to lessen the spread of Coronavirus such as hand sanitizer.”

Employees also reported that management took away masks from one group of employees to give to another. There was also no testing for employees.

The AFGE National VA Council said Trump’s anti-union executive orders are hurting the union’s ability to protect our members and the veterans they serve during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency, for example, eliminated all health and safety committees, kicked union officials out of their offices, took away equipment and official time.

The council has asked the agency to work together with the union on solutions by going into emergency negotiations to protect workers and veterans, but the VA denied the request.

“The war on federal workers has not stopped during this pandemic,” said the council. “This week they were sending out guidance on executing Trump’s executive orders instead of dealing with the pandemic protecting our workers and the veterans in the largest healthcare system in the country.”

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