Ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations and guidelines is absolutely necessary for your practice to reduce risk, protect your employees and patients, and avoid fines. This is part of a series of articles to help you take the first steps to quickly and easily determine if your practice is compliant. Creating a strong culture of safety for your practice will give your employees and patients assurance that their health and safety are protected.
What is OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to assure safe, healthy working conditions for men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. The agency operates the primary job safety and health programs in 29 of the 50 states, including conducting regular inspections and enforcing its standards.
Why Your Medical Practice Should Care About OSHA
It’s no surprise that more workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other; it has one of the highest rates of work related injuries and illnesses. Healthcare workers may face a number of serious safety and health hazards in addition to exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Your staff should know what to do to avoid exposure to the risks associated with OSHA violations:
- Potential chemical and drug exposures
- Respiratory hazards
- Ergonomic hazards (from lifting and repetitive tasks)
- Hazardous Chemicals
- Laser hazards
- Radioactive material and x-ray hazards
- Walking and Working Surfaces
- Emergency Action
- Fire and Electrical Hazards
- Potential Terrorism
- Workplace Violence
Who Must Take the OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Annually
OSHA standards require that you train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs to ensure that they do not get hurt. Training is mandatory for all employees of your medical practice, including the doctor, nurses, receptionists, and part-time employees. Also, employers must train employees annually, regardless of their prior training or education. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard applies to all of your employees who are exposed to blood or any other potentially infectious materials. This safeguards against health hazards caused by bloodborne pathogens. It has many requirements, including developing an exposure control plan and addresses other items such as:
- Universal precautions
- Hazard communication and training
- Personal protective equipment
- Hepatitis B vaccination
In general, OSHA also regulates these aspects of medical waste through the standard: management of sharps, requirements for containers that hold or store medical waste, labeling of medical waste bags and containers, and employee training.
What Documents Does OSHA Require for Your Medical Office to Be Compliant
All OSHA training must be documented to provide proof of your compliance, including:
- Training dates
- Training content
- Names/job titles of attendees
- Trainer names and their qualifications
In addition, you must maintain your employee training records for three years and make them available to employees. Failure to conduct training or to hold it annually can result in fines—even if only one employee missed training!
These are some of the general guidelines for OSHA compliance; specific training requirements for OSHA standards can be found on the agency’s website. Implementing an exposure control plan for your medical practice with details on the measures you take to protect your employees will help ensure that your office is OSHA compliant. Staying compliant will not only protect the health and safety of your patients and employees; compliance will help you avoid citations that could result in costly fines. Some violations may seem obvious, such as not using personal protective equipment, but you can also be fined for violations like poor housekeeping or not properly training employees.
Download our free compliance checklist for more help with making sure your medical practice meets state and federal regulations by clicking the button below.
Kevin Webber is a partner at TriHaz Solutions and actively involved in the day-to-day business from a strategic and operational standpoint. He has a successful background in business/investment management and entrepreneurship, including recognition by Inc. Magazine’s 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies.