osha standards

Working in the medical field can expose healthcare workers to hazards that most other industries don’t face. While there are still some hazards that all workers face that must also be addressed in a healthcare setting, there are several additional standards to be concerned about. This is why OSHA standards were developed specifically for healthcare.

Although there are hundreds of OSHA standards, the OSHA standards list below provides the primary standards healthcare providers must comply with:

  1. Bloodborne Pathogens
  2. Ionizing Radiation 
  3. Respirable Crystalline Silica and Beryllium
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  5. Hazard Communication
  6. Respiratory Protection Plan
  7. Emergency Action Plan
  8. Fire Prevention Plan and Portable Fire Extinguishers
  9. Electrical Safety 
  10. Injury/Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting

OSHA Standards for Healthcare Explained

To minimize workplace hazards, it’s essential to understand the above OSHA standards list and how they apply to your medical or dental practice.

1. Bloodborne Pathogens

When employees work in an environment that puts them at reasonable risk for exposure to blood and other infectious materials, employers are subject to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This OSHA standard requires employers to develop a written exposure control plan, train employees at risk of exposure, and implement measures to reduce exposure.

2. Ionizing Radiation Standard

If your facility has X-ray machines, the Ionizing Radiation Standard applies to you. This OSHA standard requires a survey to be conducted to determine the types of radiation used in your facility. There must also be designated restricted areas that limit employee exposure to radiation. Employees working in designated areas must wear personal radiation monitors. Radiation areas and equipment must also be labeled with caution signs.

3. Respirable Crystalline Silica and Beryllium

Respirable crystalline silica and beryllium exposure are of particular concern in dental offices and labs. Crown production releases harmful beryllium and respirable crystalline silica dust into the air. Permissible exposure levels (PELs) must be set to minimize employee exposure to these harmful substances. PELs are the maximum concentrations permitted for these substances. 

A beryllium and respirable crystalline silica exposure control plan is critical to limiting employee exposure. 

Your exposure control plan should describe:

  • Tasks that involve exposure to the harmful substance
  • Engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure
  • Housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure

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4. Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) limits employee exposure to substances such as blood and airborne illness. Employers must determine which employees are required to wear PPE, such as masks and gloves. However, it is important to note that OSHA generally considers PPE the least desirable means of controlling employee exposure. Engineering controls and work practices are the preferred methods for employee protection.

5. Hazard Communication

The Hazard Communication Standard requires employers to inform employees about hazardous chemicals and how to protect themselves. Under this OSHA standard, employers must prepare and implement a written Hazard Communication Program and comply with other standard requirements. Substances such as cleaning products and disinfectants can be considered hazardous chemicals. Failing to meet the Hazard Communication Standard is one of the most cited OSHA violations in healthcare.

6. Respiratory Protection Plan

The Respiratory Protection Standard outlines respirator selection, usage, and maintenance. When an airborne contaminant requires the use of a respirator, the equipment must be appropriately stored, cleaned, and fitted to the specific employee. Under this OSHA standard, employers must also provide effective training to employees required to use respirators. 

7. Emergency Action Plan

Emergency Action Plans must be created specifically for your practice.

Your plan should include procedures for: 

  1. Reporting fires and other emergencies
  2. Evacuation and emergency escape route assignments
  3. Employees who remain to operate critical workplace operations 
  4. Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation
  5. Rescue and medical duties for employees
  6. Names or job titles of persons to contact

8. Fire Prevention Plan and Portable Fire Extinguishers

An OSHA Fire Prevention Plan is required for all businesses. This OSHA standard states that plans must be in writing and available for employee review. However, companies with ten or fewer employees working in their physical office space may communicate the plan verbally. When hiring new employees, the fire prevention plan must be reviewed with them, and potential fire hazards must be pointed out.

OSHA also has specific requirements for portable fire extinguishers, including:

  • Portable fire extinguishers must be mounted and readily accessible to employees
  • Only approved portable fire extinguishers must be used
  • Portable fire extinguishers using carbon tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents cannot be used
  • Portable fire extinguishers must be maintained in a fully charged and operable condition and kept in their designated places
  • All soldered, riveted shell self-generating soda acid, self-generating foam, and gas cartridge water type portable fire extinguishers must be removed 

Please refer to the OSHA site for more information on portable fire extinguisher requirements.

9. Electrical Safety

OSHA’s electrical standards include safety practices and electrical design requirements. When an organization uses flammable gases, they may also need to install special wiring and equipment. Electrical hazards, such as wiring deficiencies, are among the most frequently cited by OSHA.

10. Injury/Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting

Employers must keep accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses. An annual summary of these records must be posted for employees. Records of employee training and safety inspections must also be recorded.

Under this OSHA Standard, work-related injuries and illnesses should be recorded and reported when it results in:

  • Death
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cases involving cancer or chronic irreversible disease
  • Fractures or cracked bone
  • Punctured eardrum
  • A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional

Incidents involving the death of an employee must be reported within eight hours to OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor. When incidents result in inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye, employers must report the incident within 24 hours.

Employers must also have a process for addressing employee complaints and responding promptly and effectively to concerns.

How Does OSHA Enforce Its Standards?

OSHA enforces its standards through inspections. The priority of these inspections is based on a fatality, worker complaint, or imminent danger situation. Employees can file a complaint with OSHA and ask for an inspection of their workplace when they believe their employer is not following OSHA standards, or if there is a serious hazard.

OSHA citations can vary widely across industries. The most common OSHA citations in healthcare include, failure to:

  1. Implement and maintain an exposure control plan
  2. Train employees and maintain records of training
  3. Provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  4. Provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
  5. Implement a Hazard Communication Plan

OSHA fines can range from $0 – $70,000 per citation depending upon the severity of the violation.

How to Meet OSHA Standards in Healthcare

So, how can you meet OSHA standards in healthcare? Compliancy Group’s automated healthcare compliance software simplifies OSHA compliance for healthcare. 

The software gives you the tools you need to:

  1. Provide OSHA training to employees
  2. Develop written OSHA programs and procedures
  3. Conduct regular safety inspections
  4. Provide proper safety equipment and controls
  5. Address employee complaints and concerns
  6. Keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses
  7. Stay informed of changes to OSHA regulations

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