Greater OSHA Scrutiny for Health Care Employers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced last year it would put new emphasis on enforcing workplace safety standards under the general duty clause of the OSHA act. 

This clause uses industry-recognized standards to evaluate workplace situations where there are no specific rules applied to a hazardous workplace situation. In the health care workplace this can include patient handling, blood-borne pathogens, workplace violence, tuberculosis, and slips, trips and falls.

In an attempt to toughen general standards, OSHA has recently pushed to educate healthcare facilities on the dangers of lifting patients without the assistance of a patient handling device, a problem endemic to healthcare and elderly care, which have some of the worst rates of overexertion injuries among all US industries. 

OSHA has also put a new emphasis on enforcing workplace blood-borne pathogen standards. A prominent example is a recent announcement of new fines against Wal-Mart for workplace violations related to blood-borne pathogen exposure and lack of employee training.

This week a $50,000 fine was announced against Camden, NJ-based Cooper University Hospital for workplace safety violations including allowing employees to be exposed to needle-stick injuries and other blood-borne pathogen hazards. Cooper has until May 3, 2016 to fix the problems and 15 business days to contest the findings.

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