IOSHA finds safety violations in Coroner's office

Apr. 27—ANDERSON — The ongoing dispute between Madison County Coroner Dr. Troy Abbott and county commissioners has heated up again.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration notified county officials Monday of five violations at the temporary morgue in the Emergency Management Agency facility.

The five violations carry a possible fine of up to $22,500, though the state agency noted that, generally, the fine is not imposed.

"In general, the process could include a settlement," said Stephanie McFarland of IOSHA. "The agency prefers the employer invest in taking corrective action rather than impose a fine."

The inspections took place starting last October and the last one was conducted April 11.

The five violations included the following:

—Lack of a handwashing sink

—Failure by the coroner to ensure employees used appropriate personal protective equipment including gloves, gowns and protective eye-wear

—Failure to clean working surfaces

—Not disposing of items in sharps containers

—And not placing contaminated laundry in plastic bags or containers.

Tom Ecker, Madison County administrator, said Friday that all the items on the list will be completed within a week.

He said there was a hand sink available, but IOSHA didn't want the employees to have to open a door from the temporary morgue area to get to the sink.

Ecker said Abbott has never requested containers for sharps items and to store contaminated laundry.

Commissioner John Richwine expressed concerns.

"The violations at the coroner's office represent a serious breach of safety standards that put the health and well-being of county employees and the public at risk," he said in a written statement.

"The Board of Commissioners are deeply disappointed that the Coroner allowed such violations to persist for an extended period without corrective action."

Included in the statement was a concern from Dr. Stephen Wright, the county's chief medical officer, that Abbott has a pattern of delaying the duties of the office, including the signing of death certificates and lack of communication with grieving county residents.

Since taking office Jan. 1, 2021, Abbott has been advocating for Madison County to construct a morgue with autopsy facilities. The county is considering placement of a morgue at the proposed new jail facility.

"I agree with the OSHA inspector who came out," Abbott told Fox 59. "There are not clean working conditions, there's no place to wash your hands, no drains, the smell in the dispatch center at times can be deplorable."

Abbott did not respond to The Herald Bulletin's request for comment.

McFarland of IOSHA said the county can request an informational conference within 15 days to provide more information to the agency.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.