Federal inspectors fine school district over COVID cases

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A coronavirus outbreak at a Fayette County Schools bus garage in the first days of the spread in March has resulted in a $9,000 fine against the district by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). But the violations are technical in nature and not for any serious wrong.

According to a story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, OSHA ordered the fine against the district’s transportation department after one employee died and 19 became infected with the coronavirus.

As WTVQ ABC 36 reported in May, the school district self-reported the situation to inspectors.

“After the heartbreaking loss of bus driver Eugenia Weathers to COVID-19, Fayette County Public Schools reported her passing to state Office of Occupational Safety and Health. Our intent by self-reporting was to invite an external review of our workplace measures to identify any areas of improvement needed,” School District Spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall reiterated Monday.

“OSHA has completed its investigation and found no workplace violations, however the agency has fined Fayette County Public Schools for not reporting Ms. Weathers’ death within eight hours and not reporting the hospitalization of other employees within 72 hours.

<We continue to mourn the loss of Ms. Weathers and are committed to doing everything we can to improve our processes and procedures,” Deffendall concluded in Monday’s statement.

OSHA opened an investigation into the Miles Point school bus garage April 10.

“While we cannot comment on an open investigation, it is important to note that Fayette County Public Schools initiated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration review by self-reporting the loss of our employee,” district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said at the time.

Bus driver Eugenia Higgins Weathers died April 4 after being diagnosed with the virus. The department ended up with 19 employees at Miles Point who tested positive while five were at the district’s Liberty Road garage.

The district shut down both garages for thorough cleaning and other safety steps after the outbreaks, but some employees said they didn’t think the district had done enough to prevent the spread or warn employees of the dangers. The district countered it alerted employees as soon as it became aware and followed the guidance of the state and local health departments.

At the time, Chief Operating Officer Myron Thompson issued a detailed statement outlining the steps the district was taking each time it learned of an employee testing positive.

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