Physician Practice

With several new rules and an inspection directive, OSHA makes its voice heard

Physician Practice Insider, August 25, 2015

On June 25, OSHA issued a memo to its "enforcement resources," directing staff conducting inspections in hospitals and nursing homes to focus on mitigating hazards that could lead to some of the most common injuries seen in healthcare workers. Specifically, these include musculoskeletal disorders related to patient or resident handling; bloodborne pathogens; workplace violence; tuberculosis; and slips, trips, and falls.

The memo doesn't indicate that OSHA will be increasing the number of inspections that it conducts—most inspections are still driven by complaints or injury reports—but it's clear that the intent is to cut down on the number of worker injuries. "These focus hazards will be addressed in addition to other hazards that may be the subject of the inspection or brought to the attention of the compliance officer during the inspection," according to the memo's text. "The goal of this policy is to significantly reduce overexposures to these hazards through a combination of enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach."

What does this mean for your facility? If you are following the rules and don't generate any injury reports or employee complaints, potentially very little. But healthcare safety experts who have experience dealing with OSHA say that once the inspectors get into your facility, that gives them an excuse to look for something else that is going wrong. Given the new directive, you can bet they'll be looking around for the named hazards—and some safety experts say this is a good thing.

To go along with the new directive, OSHA has had a busy year passing several new rules, many of which will affect healthcare. While many citations issued by OSHA fall under the general duty clause, these new rules—some already passed and others under review—may give inspectors specific ammunition to work with when citing workplaces for hazards. To name a few:

  • I2P2. OSHA has been working since 2010 to push the idea of a nationwide Infection and Illness Control Program (I2P2) that would pressure workplaces to identify and fix potential hazardous situations before they become incidents. Reportedly, business owners have been balking, saying an I2P2 standard would be too vague and give OSHA inspectors too much free rein to cite workplaces. Still, 34 state OSHA plans have such rules in place already.
  • Workplace violence. OSHA in April passed updates to what is known as Rule 3148, requiring healthcare workplaces to have a workplace violence plan in place. Among other things, facilities are encouraged to consider security upgrades to help keep intruders out while increasing education and safeguards to help reduce violent incidents.
  • Respiratory protection. In May, OSHA announced the introduction of the Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit, a collaborative effort with NIOSH to address respirator use, provide public health guidance on using respirators during exposure to infectious diseases, and conduct hazard assessments.
  • Injury reporting requirements. As of January 1, OSHA changed the requirements for reporting injuries and illnesses. Employers must report all fatalities within eight hours, and within 24 hours must report all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and incidents in which a worker loses an eye. OSHA also added an online reporting form to make things easier.

This article is excerpted from the August issue of Medical Environment Update.
 

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