Physician Practice

Clinic safety: hazardous spills, green chemicals, and safety data sheets

Physician Practice Insider, August 11, 2015


Q: “I do the OSHA training for eight large ophthalmology clinics in the greater Kansas City area. We do not really run into a lot of blood and such. We do some minor procedures in the office, such as injections, angiograms, and biopsies, but have three surgery centers where we do most surgical procedures.
“First, is it mandatory for a medical clinic such as ours to have a hazardous spill kit on site? And next, our cleaning company uses “green” chemicals to clean our office. I am of the old school that bleach, Lysol and things like Cavaside, etc. are proven germicides and disinfection products. Are these “green” chemicals as efficient? What does OSHA say about these “green” chemicals? Last, we store some old paint cans in the back room, just in case we need to get matching paint in the future. Do I need a safety data sheet (SDS) on these too?”
A: It depends what you mean by “mandatory.” As in, it’s the law and you can be arrested? Of course not. And I don’t think there’s any kind of mandate on the books for either in any of the standards. I also believe it depends what kind of nasty stuff you are dealing with on a daily basis. The mandate lies in the Hazard Communication Standard, which states that you must have an SDS on site for any chemicals you use, even simple household bleach, because that information can help keep your workers safe.
You can bet an inspector would be on you if you couldn’t prove you could contain a bad spill, especially if there’s a chance it could go down the drains and pollute the sewers. Then they can get you for the General Duty Clause. Then you’re dealing with EPA and health departments and everything else. I would say, yes, be on the safe side and get a kit. You will look good, and will CYA should there be an issue.
As for the next questions, again, I think it depends on your definition of “green,” and what it is in the cleaners. I too, am of the same old school that says let’s just use bleach. OSHA, on the other hand, couldn’t really care if the cleaners are green. They are concerned with whether there is stuff in it that could harm you, me, your workers, and the environment. If it’s a chemical other than good ol’ H2O, you need to have an SDS on site for it, train your workers on it, and make sure you have the right first aid stuff to deal with a spill and/or exposure.
And yes, definitely get SDS for the paint, just like construction companies would need to. They contain chemicals, and are flammable. Also, the fire department and other responding agencies would need to know what is in your facility in case there is a fire.

This question was answered by John Palmer, editor of HCPro’s OSHA Healthcare Advisor.


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