Cal/OSHA fines Baxter for plant safety violations

Baxter Healthcare has found itself on the wrong side of California workplace regulators. The state's Department of Industrial Relations (aka Cal/OSHA) fined the drugmaker $371,000 after investigating the death of one technician at a Baxter Bioscience facility near Los Angeles. Two others were seriously injured in a rescue attempt. The state cited Baxter for 11 violations, giving the company 15 days to appeal or pay the fine.

As Pharmalot reports, a Baxter technician died after entering a tank where nitrogen was used to extract proteins from plasma. The technician collapsed from lack of oxygen. A Baxter supervisor ordered two other employees to go into the tank to rescue the technician, and they, too, collapsed, Cal/OSHA said. Regulators maintain that Baxter didn't follow safety procedures that require testing of the atmosphere in confined spaces and protective equipment when entering them.

"The hazards of working in confined spaces are well documented and this is a classic example of the kind of injury that occurs when employers fail to adequately protect their employees," Cal/OSHA chief Ellen Widess said in a statement. "When confined space operations are not properly planned, it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting an impromptu rescue."

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