OSHA Regulations for Optometry

OSHA Regulations for Optometry

Optometry practices are required to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and its regulations. Some of the regulations specifically address hazards associated with risks in an optometry clinic. Two of these regulations, the bloodborne pathogens standard and the hazard communication standard require optometrists to take measures to reduce the risk of infectious agent exposure and hazardous chemical exposure, respectively. 

In news that presumably does not come as a shock, there is a third regulation – the electrical safety standard – that optometrists must comply with to reduce the risk of fire and electrical discharge injury. These three OSHA regulations for optometry are discussed in greater detail below.

OSHA Regulations for Optometry: Bloodborne Pathogens

OSHA regulations for optometry protect optometrists and their staff from infectious agents. These infectious agents, which can be transmitted from one person to another, include blood and other potentially infectious material (OPIM). 

Procedures and activities that entail a risk of bloodborne pathogen and OPIM exposure include:

  • Procedures involving treatment of minor eye trauma, including lacerations and abrasions
  • Procedures involving removal of small masses from eyelids and ocular tissue 

To mitigate the risk of employee exposure to infectious agents, OSHA regulations for optometry require optometrist offices to comply with the Bloodborne Pathogens standard.

To comply with the standard optometry practices must do the following.

Develop an Exposure Control Plan

An exposure control plan is a written plan to eliminate or minimize occupational exposures to blood and OPIM. To ensure OSHA healthcare compliance, OSHA regulations for optometry require employers to prepare an exposure determination. The exposure determination consists of a list of job classifications that risk exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Once the list is compiled, the employer must ensure that exposure training is provided for job classifications with risk of exposure.

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Implement Universal Precautions

When the presence of bloodborne pathogens can neither be confirmed nor denied, workers must take the measures they would be required to take as if a bloodborne pathogen were actually present.

Identify and Use Engineering Controls

OSHA regulations for optometry require engineering controls that isolate or remove a bloodborne pathogen from the workplace if the implementation of such controls is feasible. 

Provide Personal Protective Equipment to Workers

OSHA regulations for optometry require optometrists to furnish appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns, eye protection, and masks, to reduce the risk of employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Employers must provide this equipment free of charge and as needed. Provision, repair, and maintenance must be at no cost to employees.

Optometrist employers should provide disposable gloves as a precaution to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure when employees are or may be in contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials. 

Optometry employers should instruct staff members as to proper glove use. Instruction should note that:  

  • Gloves are not a substitute for handwashing
  • Gloves are for single-use only and are discarded after each patient
  • Hands should be washed after gloves are removed

Protective eyewear should be provided in situations or procedures in which blood or contaminated fluids may be splashed into the eyes of optometrists or their staff. OSHA recommends using goggles or eyeglasses with solid side shields for protection.

OSHA Regulations for Optometry: Hazard Communication

Another one of the main OSHA regulations for optometry is the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The purpose of the standard is to ensure that employees are aware of chemical hazards in the workplace and know how to protect themselves from these hazards. 

Examples of hazardous chemicals that may be used in an optometry office include (among others):

  • Acetone
  • Alcohols
  • Lens-tinting dyes
  • Disinfection chemicals

The Hazard Communication Standard requires optometric employers to do the following:

  • Create and make available to employees a written hazard communication program
  • Ensure that hazardous chemicals are properly labeled
  • Make Safety Data Sheets available to employees
  • Train employees on categories of hazards (e.g., flammability, carcinogenicity)
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves or protective eyewear, to reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals

OSHA Regulations for Optometry: Electrical Safety

Electrical equipment causes the largest number of workplace fires in optometry offices. The OSHA electrical safety standard requires optometry offices to take the following electrical safety measures:

  • Always inspect electrical cords and wires to ensure that all electrical equipment is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. For example, if an employee observes a cord with a nick, scrape, or cut, the cord should be immediately removed from use and reported.
  • Keep storage materials at least three feet away from the front of any electrical panel (storage box).
  • Clearly label circuits with accurate and up-to-date cabinet directories.
  • Unblock electrical panels that house circuit breakers. Blocking these panels violates both OSHA regulations and the National Fire Protection Association Codes (NFPA). 
  • Keep electrical wiring free from all recognizable hazards, and cover energized wiring to prevent contact with other conducting materials.
  • Replace electrical outlets and switches that have either missing or broken covers. 

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