21 violations found at Cook County Morgue

June 29, 2012 3:32:27 PM PDT
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is working with the Department of Labor to correct violations at the county morgue.

A report found 21 violations at the facility, 15 of which are considered serious. Illinois Dept. of Labor report on Cook County Morgue

In January, ABC 7's I-Team first revealed photos showing bodies stacked on top of each other and crammed into coolers. Since then, Preckwinkle's office says work has begun on a comprehensive safety policy and procedures manual.

Last week, Medical Examiner Dr. Nancy Jones announced she was retiring.

According to the report, which was published Friday, morgue workers were put in danger by bodies falling from overhead racks. The Illinois Department of Labor began its review of the Cook County morgue in January, around the same time media reports revealed that bodies were piling up beyond capacity in the facility's coolers. After months of pressure over the revelations, the embattled medical examiner, Dr. Nancy Jones, will resign next month, and four other employees have been fired, officials announced last week.

The Labor Department report was presented to county officials Thursday.

The agency found 21 shortcomings, including a failure by morgue administrators to provide required hepatitis B vaccinations to workers who could be exposed to the disease.

Storage racks were damaged by cases of bodies falling from overhead, inspectors found.

"Both management and employee interviews indicated that trays, bodies or both have fallen from as high as the top level of the rack system, approximately 10 feet high," the report said.

It added that workers were at risk of being struck by bodies while operating lifts in the cooler "due to lack of maintenance and training."

County official Gina Deciani said work was already under way to correct some of them problems spelled out in the report. Other issues, like repairing cooler racks will take more time because the county has not yet found the money, said Deciani, deputy chief administrative officer with the county's Bureau of Administration.

Temporary measures will include trying to make racks and other equipment more stable to reduce the risk to employees, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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