People come to healthcare establishments to get better, but did you know that hospitals are one of the most unsafe places to work? As per the United States Department of Labor, hospitals reported 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses, with a rate of 5.5 injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees. That’s twice the rate for the private industry. It implies that the risk of injury and disease for hospital workers is greater than the risk of injury to workers in construction and manufacturing.
That’s not all. Illnesses and injuries of your healthcare staff involve a hefty cost. It includes the cost of worker compensation, finding a replacement, decreased productivity and errors of the temporary staff, likelihood that the injured employee would want to leave, and the adverse impact on the morale of other employees.
Non-adherence to OSHA compliance guidelines can cost medical practices thousands of dollars in penalties. The post-pandemic scenario has seen OSHA issuing a slew of citations and fines. A New Jersey Addiction Treatment Center was fined $26,988, and two nursing homes were fined to the tune of $25000.
The healthcare sector is involved with providing health services to individuals in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, dental offices, emergency medical care, out-patient surgery centers, and nursing homes. OSHA enforces set standards on medical practices and offices to protect employees from various risks and hazards they may come across daily. OSHA, which stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was established as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970(OSH) established by the Department of Labor. The OSHA Act covers most private sector employers and their staff, a few public sector employers, and workers across 50 states and territories, and jurisdictions under federal government authority.
Every person who works in healthcare – doctors, nurses, administrative staff, janitorial staff, EMTs, and other related roles must be OSHA certified. Medical staff deal with various safety and health hazards such as biological hazards, bloodborne pathogens, chemical, and drug exposures, respiratory hazards, waste anesthetic gas exposures, ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive activities, laboratory hazards, radioactive and x-ray exposure, and workplace violence. OSHA aims to reduce the risk of illness and injury by educating medical staff on the potential risks and how to avert them.
Summary of main OSHA standards
The Hazard Communication Standard: Also known as the “Right to Know” standard. This standard is designed to deal with hazardous chemicals. Healthcare employers are required to have easily accessible information on any chemicals used in the workplace by way of Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and labels that outline any hazards to the chemicals at hand.
- The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (BBP): This is direct protection against the dangers from bloodborne pathogens. Employers must implement an exposure control plan that outlines universal precautions, post-exposure protocols, methods, and procedures for waste disposal, recordkeeping, and other details. In addition, training must be provided to employees who handle blood and other infectious materials. Employers are required to provide the appropriate safety equipment and training to reduce the number of contaminated-sharps incidents from scalpels, needles, broken glass, or other sharp devices.
- The Personal Protective Equipment Standard: Employers must provide PPE such as face masks, shields, protective gloves, gowns, and aprons. The equipment should be clean, reliable, and correct fitting to prevent exposure. A PPE program to train employees on the necessary equipment, when and how the PPE is to be worn, and the care, maintenance, and correct disposal should be in place.
- The Ionizing Radiation Standard: This has to do with specific safety standards that should be implemented if an office has x-ray machines and any other equipment which produces radiation. Radioactive source equipment must be clearly labeled with the need for caution. Other control measures include shields and PPE for staff alongside personal radiation monitors.
- Exit Routes Standard: All healthcare facilities must comply with OSHA requirements for exit routes. These include the design and construction of exit routes, maintenance, safeguards, and operational guidelines of exit routes.
- The Electrical Standard: These include design requirements for electrical systems and safety-related work practices. Special wiring and equipment are required for the handling of inflammable gases.
- The Emergency Action Plan Standard: The Emergency Action Plan details the actions employees must take to ensure safety in fire or any other emergency.
- The Fire Safety Standard: All healthcare facilities should have a fire prevention plan. This includes evacuation plans and procedures and fire safety standards.
- Safe Patient Handling: Patient lifting, repositioning, and transfers are the most common and preventable causes of injury for healthcare workers. Nursing assistants and registered nurses are prone to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in large part to overexertion associated with these activities. Patient handling equipment is beneficial to both patients and healthcare workers. It can prevent falls, bruises, and skin tears in patients. An OSHA self-assessment checklist on safe patient handling can be used to evaluate opportunities for improvement at your medical practice.
The focus on OSHA training has grown with the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the Presidential Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, January 21, 2021, OSHA issued a temporary emergency standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19. As part of the ETS, all healthcare employers are required to implement steps to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace.
OSHA Training in Healthcare Enterprises
All healthcare employees, including doctors, dentists, nurses, receptionists, and part-time employees, must complete their OSHA training within ten days of hire. Some core OSHA training standards such as bloodborne pathogens and respiratory protection should be conducted annually in healthcare facilities.
The training can be conducted at the medical practice by an employee or manager who is experienced and trained on OSHA safety regulations. Other training resources are online courses and OSHA training consultants. Medical practices must maintain a written record of all OSHA training performed.
Is your medical practice conducting OSHA training regularly? Failure to follow OSHA guidelines can attract heavy penalties. Apart from OSHA, some of the other critical guidelines in healthcare include HIPAA, HITECH, and MACRA. Contact us for further information on improving compliance and medical billing efficiencies at your medical practice.