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OSHA dings Claremont High for violations

After an inspection of the Claremont High School campus—spurred by 2 separate complaints from a faculty member—the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) has deemed CHS to be in violation of 4 state statutes.

The citations and notification of penalties were issued on September 20 and subsequently posted in the faculty staff room. The district has nearly 2 weeks left before it must address the OSHA citations.

The first violation, according to OSHA, was the school’s failure to properly establish, implement and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), which the state mandates must be put into writing.

Such a program, the notice says, should at minimum identify the person(s) responsible for implementing the program, include a system ensuring employees comply with safe and healthy work practices, and include a system for communicating safety and health matters to employees. The above program, the citation notes, should include “provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of hazards at the worksite without fear of reprisal.”

This and their OSHA citations come in the wake of 2 Williams Complaints filed by a CHS faculty member who has asked his name be withheld. The teacher asserted that ongoing water damage in the 700 block and nearby areas at the school pose a threat to student and staff safety. He also said he was subject to increased scrutiny from the administration after pointing out the facilities issues. CUSD denies that the staffer has experienced any negative repercussions for speaking up.

In response to the complaints, CUSD hired independent specialists to inspect the campus, including L.Y. Environmental of Highland. In April 12, 2012, the company notified CHS administration that inspectors had detected the presence of “heavy fungal growth” in 2 locations. The district had the mold cleaned up shortly after and initiated a number of repairs at the local high school as a response to the Williams resports and the inspector’s findings, according to Kevin Ward, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Though repairs were already underway prior to the release of OSHAs violations report, the regulatory agency views the district’s esponse as too little too late. As of September 20, the citation notice said, CHS had not provided the agency with a copy of its IIPP, and employees interviewed were unable to demonstrate any knowledge of its existence. A CUSD team is currently working on comprehensive IIPP,  and must pay $560 for not doing so sooner. OSHA has mandated that the violation, and each subsequent citation, be abated by October 23, 2012.

Other citations issued were for the school’s shortfalls in the areas of “Mechanical Execution of Work,” with a $420 penalty given for unsafe conditions surrounding a 120-volt electrical junction box in the library; for ongoing water intrusion in a number of rooms in the 700 and 800 quads of CHS, a violation for which a $560 penalty has been levied; and the presence of a fire extinguisher in the administration building that was not fully charged, which drew a $420 fine. 

The violations with regards to the electrical junction box and the fire extinguisher were already cleared up between the OSHA inspector’s visit and the release of their citations, Mr. Ward noted.

“The district has received a copy of the OSHA findings. CUSD is paying the fines and will immediately correct any pending issues,” Mr. Ward said.

The faculty complainant told the COURIER he feels vindicated by the OSHA findings. Before the citations were posted, he said he was perceived as a lone troublemaker making exaggerated complaints about problems at Claremont High School. 

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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