Workers who expose unsafe conditions, risks, illegal activity and other misconduct are known as “whistleblowers.” Recently, a nurse was reprimanded for reporting on Facebook and to media sources that he was concerned about safety standards as the hospital where he worked. Specifically, the nurse voiced concerns about asbestos, the dangerous substance linked to the cancer, mesothelioma.
Many forms of asbestos have been banned, but it is not uncommon to identify asbestos in some industrial and other workplaces. Victims who are exposed to asbestos could contract the deadly cancer, mesothelioma in years or decades after the exposure. Our Massachusetts mesothelioma attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos and protecting the victims who are impacted by cancer. We will aggressively investigate any suspected exposure and protect victims against all liable entities, including employers.
According to reports, the nurse warned that the wards at his hospital were unsafe. He also mentioned on Facebook to friends that the hospital had asbestos and that the hospital did not have enough money to pay nurses wages. He threatened to go public with the allegation of asbestos. These Facebook posts came 2 years after he wrote another article exposing other deviations in hospital care.
Many of the hospitals built between the 40s and 70s and even some of the newer buildings contain asbestos. According to reports, a 2006 inspection found asbestos in 10 of 15 New York City hospitals. Healthcare workers, including nurses, doctors, and support staff may be unknowingly exposed to asbestos. Asbestos may be found in furnace rooms where there is old piping because it was used as a resistance to chemical and thermal degradation. Asbestos is also resistant to electricity. It is commonly found in pipe insulation, siding, wallboard spackling, tiles, boiler insulation, and electrical wiring insulation.
The whistleblower nurse was subject of a disciplinary hearing after the council got wind of his reports involving asbestos and other hospital health and safety issues. According to reports, the panel determined that the nurse did not act unprofessional with regards to the article, but found that his Facebook complaints made him unfit to practice nursing. Rather than firing the nurse completely, he was given a 12-month “caution order,” essentially putting him on notice.
The hospital alleged that Facebook was not a proper venue for whistleblowing, especially with regards to alleging asbestos in the surgical rooms at the hospital. After the asbestos exposure, the hospital health board carried out an asbestos removal program. Though the hospital took subsequent steps to remove the asbestos, they could be held liable for any cases of mesothelioma linked to exposure while in the hospital.
Asbestos exposure can be hazardous and OSHA has specific standards for workers in industries, including healthcare. Employees should monitor risk and the potential hazards of asbestos exposure and should be given appropriate training in operations, such as hospitals, where there could be potential exposure. Even short-term or one-time exposure to asbestos has been known to cause mesothelioma in humans. Employers are required to protect workers by creating regulating areas and controlling the areas where there is a possibility of exposure.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
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