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Iowa OSHA sends ‘hazard alert letter’ to GOP leaders about Covid in Capitol

DES MOINES — The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sent Republican leaders at the state Capitol a letter, warning working conditions may be exposing legislative branch employees to Covid-19 hazards.

The OSHA letter says no state law is being broken, but cited concerns about a lack of social distancing and that there is no requirement employees report Covid positive test results to leadership. The late January OSHA inspection of the Capitol did result in a 10-thousand dollar fine. The inspector said the legislative branch wasn’t keeping records of workplace illnesses or injuries and employees were handling chemical disinfectants without proper training.

The most serious citation, though, was about electrical outlets in a Capitol meeting room that posed a shock or burn hazard. A spokeswoman for House Republicans called it “a politically-contrived investigation” and said GOP leaders had taken what she described as “extensive efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, said the inspection was launched after a “politically motivated” complaint from union leaders and there were no fines related to coronavirus protocols.

“Over the course of more than 14 weeks, the Iowa Senate has been notified of only two positive cases and the measures in place are working,” Whitver said.

So far this year, eight cases of Covid-19 among people associated with the House have been publicly announced. One legislator has revealed she still has symptoms. Representative Amy Nielsen tested positive for the virus in late January.

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