CHICAGO (AP) – Bodies falling from overhead racks and other hazards at the Chicago area's main morgue have threatened workers' safety, according to details of a state investigation published Friday.
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 Chicago Tribune obtained a copy of the Labor Department report, which 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.
Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com