Recent OSHA Violations in Healthcare Focus on Specific Areas of OSHA Investigation (II)
In Part I of OSHA Violations in Healthcare, we focused on 2 specific areas of OSHA investigations:
- Exposure to communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis
- Exposure control plans for bloodborne pathogens (BBP)
In Part II, we’ll highlight the following OSHA investigations outlined in the agency’s 2012 press release:
- Safety-engineered controls and safer devices
- Ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients
- Workplace violence
- Slips, trips and falls
Read on to see if your facility is in compliance.
Safety-Engineered Controls and Safer Devices
Although safety engineered devices are part of an exposure control plan, we call it out because of the number of substantial fines that recently have been associated with this part of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
To prevent sharps injuries, you must evaluate and implement safety engineered controls, such as:
- Sharps containers
- Self-sheathing needles or needles that retract into a syringe after use
- Shielded or retracting catheters
- Plastic capillary tubes
- Intravenous medication delivery systems that use a catheter port with a needle housed in a protective covering or a non-needle connection
- Needleless devices, such as jet injection systems that deliver liquids beneath the skin or through a muscle
Safer medical devices (such as needleless devices) must be used at all times, whenever available.
In October 2012, a hematology-oncology provider was cited for not adopting safer needles. OSHA found that the provider’s healthcare workers were placed at risk of sharps injuries when removing needles used to treat people with cancer. Because employees had already made their employer aware of the availability of safer devices, the employer was alleged to be in willful violation with intentional disregard for the law. In this case, the proposed fine for this violation alone was $42,000.
In March 2013, a medical practice faced fines of $44,800 for failing to protect its workers from bloodborne pathogens — more than 60% of this fine was as a result of its failure to use safety engineered needleless systems and needles engineered with sharps protection.
Ergonomic Stressors Related to Lifting Patients
Although there is no Ergonomic Standard from OSHA, the agency can still cite employers for violations in this area by utilizing the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act that requires employers to provide workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
The workplace violence statistics associated with healthcare settings are staggering. OSHA expects facilities to develop “comprehensive and effective programs that proactively address workplace violence situations. Prevention, protection, communication, and awareness training are critical to safeguarding caregivers.” Furthermore, it offers workplace violence prevention guidelines specifically for healthcare facilities and social workers.
A residential care facility received proposed penalties of $8700. This one facility had 20 reported cases of workplace violence over 4 years. Employees were physically assaulted during routine interactions with violent residents. These assaults resulted in more than 10 weeks of missed work and nearly 8 weeks of restricted duty.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
OSHA’s Walking and Working Surfaces Standards are found in Sub-Part D of the General Industry Standards. This sub-part covers requirements for employers to provide workplaces that are clean, orderly, and in a sanitary condition. Standards in this Subpart cover trip and fall hazards.
Avoiding Violations and OSHA Fines
OSHA has announced added scrutiny to the healthcare industry, and the most frequently cited violations are regarding the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. This holds true for:
- Medical Offices and Practices
- Dental Offices and Practices
- Residential Care Facilities
- Other employers such as medical device manufacturers, etc., where there is the potential for workers to be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials.
Stericycle Certified Occupational Safety Specialists provide in-person, annual site evaluations and training that focuses on OSHA compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. The NO FINE. NO FAIL. Guarantee™ ensures that you’ll be 100% compliant with your BBP and medical waste management practices when you follow our Steri-Safe Preferred Program and recommendations — or we’ll pay your OSHA-related fines for violations in those areas.