Official: Calif. prison agency failed to notify employees exposed to COVID

The California Prison Industry Authority was fined $24,300 for three "serious" violations


By Wes Venteicher
The Sacramento Bee

VACAVILLE, Calif. — California's workplace safety regulator has fined a state prison agency $24,300 for failing to enforce COVID-19 protections.

The state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, cited the California Prison Industry Authority for three "serious" violations related to a June 21 COVID-19 exposure at a metal fabrication and vehicle outfitting warehouse, according to the citation.

The warehouse is located at California State Prison- Solano, in Vacaville.

The prison agency, which manufactures goods and products for state agencies using inmate labor, failed to do contact tracing, notify employees or provide medical evaluations after the exposure, according to the Feb. 24 citation.

The agency also failed to fit-test employees for N95 masks from October through February, according to the citation.

And from at least March to June, the agency failed to properly train employees who were responsible for transporting workers to and from the metals warehouse on COVID-19 safety protocols, the citation says.

The failures resulted in three citations for $8,100 each.

In the citation, Cal/ OSHA said the failures to notify and educate employees included inmate workers.

Prison Industry Authority spokeswoman Michele Kane said in an email Friday that the citations applied to staff, not inmates. Kane said the fine would be paid from the agency's revolving fund, which is supported by sales of goods and services to government agencies. The agency doesn't draw money from the state's general fund.

Earlier in February, Cal/OSHA issued its largest COVID-19 penalty of $421,880 to San Quentin State Prison, the site of one of the state prison system's worst outbreaks.

Additionally, the regulator fined Avenal State Prison $39,600 over an outbreak.

Those fines came after the state Office of the Inspector General released a scathing report that criticized the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and California Correctional Health Care Services for risking the lives of inmates and prison staff with rushed transfers of medically vulnerable inmates amid the pandemic.

To date, about 49,000 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The state's prison population is about 90,000 people, down about 25,000 since March of last year.

About 16,000 employees have tested positive among the roughly 55,000 who work for the state's prison system.

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(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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