California safety inspectors have issued nine citations and fined the Department of General Services for failing to adequately prepare groundskeepers asked to clean up needles and fecal matter in Capitol Park.
The Cal-OSHA citations include $3,270 in fines. The state’s workplace safety agency conducted an investigation from March 20 to June 21, concluding that the department’s facilities management division did not provide adequate training, information and equipment to its employees.
Capitol Park groundskeepers, who usually maintain shrubbery and repair park facilities, complained that they were expected to clean blood and fecal matter left in the park. The workers said they were given pressure washers, which can atomize the waste and expose the groundskeepers and passers-by to blood-borne diseases, said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for the International Union of Operating Engineers. He filed the complaint on behalf of the workers on March 15.
“Over the past several years, the homeless started spending more time at Capitol Park around trees and bushes, woody areas,” said Crouch. “In the evenings, they spend the night, and they leave debris and garbage.”
The job should have been done by a hazardous materials crew, Crouch said, and the areas probably should have been cordoned off to limit other people to exposure.
Jennifer Iida, public information officer for the Department of General Services said in a statement that the department takes the safety of employees and Capitol Park visitors seriously.
"The citations issued by Cal-OSHA raise important questions and the department will be taking steps going forward to ensure the park is a clean, safe place for all Californians," she said.
The nine citations included failure to fill out forms recording injuries and hazard assessments, as well as failure to provide training, safety procedures, information and personal protective devices.
Crouch also filed a similar grievance in April, when Caltrans maintenance workers were exposed to blood, feces and needles when cleaning homeless encampments without appropriate training or gear.
Iida said the department plans to pay the penalty issued by Cal-OSHA.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 11:44 a.m. on July 3 with a statement from the Department of General Services..