Whistleblowers Allege Unsafe Working Conditions Prior To West Haven VA Deaths
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says whistleblowers have come forward in the wake of a lethal accident at the West Haven VA, alleging unsafe working conditions.
A U.S. veteran and a contractor were killed in a November explosion after being trapped in a room filled with hot steam. The accident occurred on the VA campus in a maintenance building. In addition to the two deaths, three other people suffered injuries.
The whistleblowers said safety conditions on the hospital’s campus were questionable. They said complaints were made by a number of VA employees and contractors in the year before the accident, including Euel Sims Jr., the U.S. veteran killed in the November accident. Blumenthal presented their concerns during a news conference Tuesday.
The whistleblowers provided 75 pages of documented complaints that Blumenthal said were disregarded and dismissed by top VA management.
They shared “profoundly troubling documents,” Blumenthal said, “that indicate warnings about unsafe working conditions that could well have led to this explosion,” though he added that the safety issues in question may or may not have caused the November accident.
The whistleblowers faced retaliation and threats of retaliation, according to Blumenthal. One VA employee says he was demoted for bringing the concerns to light.
Blumenthal read an excerpt of the material, saying “some of management commented ‘this matter requires urgent consideration and immediate action to prevent serious bodily injury or even death.’”
The senator has asked the U.S. inspector general to look into the complaints.
Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Ali covers the Naugatuck River Valley for Connecticut Public Radio. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @ahleeoh.