Healthcare Training: Ensure that Your Health Care Facility Complies with OSHA regulations

Now, for many years, people would think, “Well, the hospital, that's where I go to get better. That's a safe place.” And to some extent, that's still the concept. Especially in disasters, people will go to the hospital in a disaster situation so that they can find electricity and places to take care of them.

However, since the emergence of new diseases with Aids, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and these antibiotic resistant organisms, there's a growing tendency for people to think, “Well, I don’t want to go to a hospital. I might catch some nasty bug and die.” And also from an OSHA point of view, they have started targeting hospitals because they realize that hospitals are very complex and there are many hazards within the facility.

Now, if OSHA doesn’t have a specific standard on any issue, they can invoke the General Duty Clause. You probably all heard of the General Duty Clause. It's section 5(a)(1).

Our expert mentioned in a healthcare event that to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that is causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. And they do use that. Good example of what OSHA use as the General Duty Clause is for enforcing ergonomics, back injuries. Because OSHA does not currently have ergonomic standards so they use the General Duty Clause if they still they want to cite an employer on ergonomic hazards.

There's a bloodborne pathogen standard but and invoke sometimes the General Duty Clause for needle safety and helping our sort of coursing, coaxing employers to implement needle safe devices. There are a lot of great needle safe devices out there and it cost little more but they're worth it. And OSHA does sometimes use that.

Workplace violence is another one where the General Duty Clause is invoked. And then chemical exposures, any type of chemical exposure which is where OSHA doesn’t really have a regular standard on.

And some of the criteria for issuing a General Duty Clause, these are the items that have to be met in order for OSHA to actually invoke the General Duty Clause. It has to be a hazard, it has to be a recognized hazard, it has to be a hazard that causes serious harm. And the hazard must be correctible.

Okay, so what happens if OSHA walks up to your facility? What are some of the healthcare training tips to surviving an OSHA inspection? Well, you don’t want to just turn them away, you know. So we can do that, you can say, “I'm sorry, we're too busy here. We're in the midst of…” you know, like if you're a manufacturing plant, you can't just shut down your operation.

But you don’t really want to do that because they'll just go and come back with the right paperwork to say well you have to. And you have to walk them in and then they're not too happy. So be cordial, welcoming, and don’t be overly gratuitous.

Our expert further suggested in a health system conference that you should accompany the inspector at all times. Don’t let the inspector walk around on their own, you know, that's a no-no. Because one, they might get hurt, get might find things that you don’t want them to find. Or if they come across something they won't have somebody to answer questions and then they might think – start thinking they're on the wrong path.

Take photo every time the inspector takes photo, answer questions honestly. Don’t try to bluff them or just don’t get anywhere if you're trying to be dishonest. If you're honest and straightforward, that's great. But on the other hand, don’t offer additional information. You know, you just answer the question. Don’t offer extra questions because, you know, you might not be prepared to go down the path if they're starting to ask. So, that’s a very good tip.

And then, have key department staff that are knowledgeable, readily available to answer their questions because it really helps if the OSHA inspector or any inspector ask the question to have someone there that can say, “Oh, I know that answer” and they just spout it out instead of saying, “I don’t know” and having this dumb look on your face.

What are some of the inspection priorities for OSHA, in other words, how do they decide which facilities to go to? Well, if there's an eminent danger or some fatality, of course, they're going to be there right away. You're required to report fatalities to OSHA within 24 hours as per the healthcare rules.

But also another that’s high on their list is employees complaints, follow-up inspections, referrals from other government agencies, and then finally towards the bottom of the list, Occupational Illness Reports. You know, if they see a trend from these reports that you're sending in to OSHA and they see, “Oh, well, we want to start targeting that” so they will.

And then there is the routine scheduled inspection. It's sort of an unannounced. You know, just with your time and there are hospitals where they haven’t seen an OSHA inspector in 20 years. But that doesn’t mean they won't show up next month.

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