The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known to those throughout industries as OSHA, is a government agency whose primary aim is to ensure access to safety and security for all Americans in their personal workplace. OSHA’s top goal is to reduce any possible employee injuries or illnesses by minimalizing exposure. Their rules and safety regulations are standards to be set for a healthy work environment, which primarily apply to those facilities in healthcare, medical, and the veterinary field.
There’s a lot of information to keep track of, but OSHA compliance is vital for your clinic—and it’s not optional either. Full OSHA compliance is the law; it applies under several extensive categories of standards. Are you still wondering what all this means for veterinary practices? Here’s a general guide on how to get your vet office OSHA compliant and fulfill the necessary requirements.
Keep Hazard Communication Standards
Under administrative regulations, the first step is to create a safety hazard communication plan. Hazardous chemicals within the workplace need to be identified, labeled, and documented for internal and external knowledge. OSHA requires veterinary offices to take special care when handling these toxic substances.
Your vet office needs to have safety data sheets accessible to employees—either organized neatly in a binder or available digitally for access. This documentation is required, as it provides staff with clear instructions on how to handle any toxic chemicals within the office as well as describes predetermined emergency procedures for each toxic substance. Safety data sheets are typically available from suppliers or the original place of purchase.
Employees should be aware of what these onsite chemicals are, how dangerous they are, and how to stay safest around them. Signage should be visible in a room, readable, and updated to the latest set standards. Each substance should be labeled and identified as a toxic hazard.
Keep Recordkeeping Standards
If you’re wondering how to get your vet office OSHA compliant, there are further compliance standards to observe. OSHA requires recordkeeping standards for all facilities. At your vet office, documentation for all employees must be kept on file, including health records and emergency contact information.
Employee training, which will be addressed in further detail later on, is vital regarding OSHA compliance. New hires should be trained immediately, as well as refresher training for all employees annually. Keep signed documents to show each employee’s attendance at employee training meetings. This documentation relays certification of employees’ knowledge of workplace risks and how to properly use and handle any workplace equipment.
In addition to an updated written hazard communication plan and annual safety report review, OSHA requires a series of forms for recordkeeping: the OSHA 300 series. If your office has more than ten employees, it must keep this log. The OSHA 300A form is a summary of the detailed 300 form log, which shows all the reportable injuries and illnesses that have occurred within your vet office over the year.
These records must be complete and available for OSHA upon inspection. The 300A form must be posted and visibly displayed during a certain time of year—from February to the end of April—for all staff to see and acknowledge for further hazard prevention.
Have Protection Control
Heavy risks are involved when working with animals. Protection control is about safety around animals and medical equipment that creates hazardous exposure. There are special precautions set in place when administering anesthesia to prevent build-up of excess gas indoors.
Within a radiology room, employees must wear protective gear, such as a gown, leaded gloves, and a shield to avoid radiation. The best case scenario would be for animal patients to be sedated and placed in their correct positions without the need for human holders to keep them in place during x-rays or scans.
Within the vet office, earplugs should be kept on hand in case of potential issues from excessive animal noise or barking. Workers also need to keep safe around animals in general, especially those that may have zoonotic diseases such as rabies. Staff should be up to date on required immunizations and wear the proper protective equipment for the task they’re involved in.
Remember to have an evacuation plan developed and set in place. Like any business or workplace, emergencies such as fires or natural disasters can happen; evacuations need to be practiced for safety purposes. With a clear chain of command and procedures to be followed, protective actions can save lives.
Know Financial Penalties
OSHA inspects facilities and practices with employee complaints filed or those that meet the criteria for a high hazard work environment. If issues are found during this inspection, the particular facility will be penalized and pay a fine. Such fines may vary in amount based on the overall implication of the violation.
Trouble lurks in OSHA violations beyond the hazards for staff. These non-compliance violations can damage and hinder your business. OSHA fines have increased over the last decade and will continue to rise at a steady pace. Let this be an incentive to keep in compliance with OSHA standards and regulations for the benefit of the facility itself. When everyone pays attention to the standard rules, compliance can be maintained for the safety and security of all.
Prioritize Employee Training and Education
As part of the leadership for your vet office, you must make an honest effort to properly identify any present risks, which hazards can be reduced, and which can be controlled to provide that safe work environment. Gamma Compliance Solutions has an OSHA veterinary manual full of updated veterinary OSHA compliance information to utilize for your advantage. In addition to this manual, comprehensive training courses are offered for your staff. As an employer, you’re also responsible to provide this job and industry-specific safety training—your staff has a right beyond mere knowledge, they have a distinct right to understand any safety information given to them.
Remind staff members it’s their responsibility to both learn and be fully aware of the necessary safety rules and procedures established for their role within the veterinary practice. Employees need to comply with all applicable standards for their positions, wear their proper safety and protective gear while working on the clock, report any hazardous conditions they see to their supervisors and report any work-related injuries or illnesses they have to those in charge. Only together can the staff work to keep the office OSHA compliant in order to provide the best care for animals.