Connecticut Veterans Affairs won’t fix fatal heating system, special counsel tells Biden

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Connecticut Veterans Affairs won’t fix fatal heating system, special counsel tells Biden

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A Connecticut hospital has failed to fix key safety hazards two years after a fatal accident that saw two people killed.

“I am distressed by the continued failure to ensure the facility is safe for employees and veterans,” special counsel Henry Kerner said in a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday. “It is unacceptable that life-threatening safety hazards remain in place at the West Haven VA despite numerous calls for the agency to correct them.”

Two employees were killed in 2020 at the West Haven Veterans Affairs Medical Center when steam exploded from a boiler that was operating under unsafe conditions. Employees did not have adequate training in operating the complex heating system and took shortcuts in controlling the release of steam from the main boiler, Kerner wrote in the letter.

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After the accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tagged the facility as unsafe after finding “serious, willful, and repeat violations of occupational safety standards for the control of hazardous energy,” Kerner wrote.

OSHA ordered West Haven VA to fix the violations by June 29, 2021. A whistleblower reported that life-threatening hazards remained, prompting an investigation by VA headquarters.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough substantiated the hazards in a July 26, 2022, letter to Kerner, but the problems remain.

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Among the issues at West Haven are massive steam leaks, erratic communication between plant operators and technicians, and delays in replacing parts.

It is unclear whether VA headquarters followed up with West Haven after the compliance deadline was missed. The VA has not responded to a request for comment.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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