FAQ

FAQs

Q. What is an "Exposure Control Plan?"

A. The exposure control plan is the employer's written program. It outlines the protective measures an employer will take to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood and Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM). The exposure control plan must contain at a minimum:

  1. The exposure determination which identifies job classifications and, in some cases, tasks and procedures where there is occupational exposure to blood and OPIM;
  2. the procedures for evaluating the circumstances surrounding an exposure incident
  3. a schedule of how and when other provisions of the standard will be implemented, including methods of compliance, hepatitis B vaccinations and post exposure follow up, communication of hazards to employees, and recordkeeping.

Q. Does the exposure control plan need to be a separate document?

A. No. The exposure control plan may be part of another document, such as the facility's health and safety manual, as long as all components are included. However, in order for the plan to be accessible to employees, it must be a cohesive entity by itself or there must be a guiding document which states the overall policy and goals and references the elements of existing separate policies that comprise the plan. For small facilities, the plan's schedule and method of implementation of the standard may be an annotated copy of the final standard that states on the document when and how the provisions of the standard will be implemented. Larger facilities could develop a broad facility program, incorporating provisions from the standard that apply to their establishments.

Q. Does medical waste liability exist for a generator?

A. Unfortunately, yes! Wastes picked up by medical waste transporters must have the name of the generator and address clearly marked on the medical waste container. This is to identify who the generator is. To ensure wastes picked up are safety transported, it's important that the generators engage reputable companies who have valid registration papers and insurance certificates. For example, Texas requires a waste transporter to carry a million dollar insurance for each vehicle. In the absence of such important documents, the liability is shared by generators in case of an accident.

Q. What if I've never had an employee experience a needlestick, do I still need to use safer devices?

A. Yes. OSHA Standards are intended to be implemented as a means to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. In order to most effectively avoid percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps, employees must use engineering controls, including safer medical devices.

Q. Does the "Needlestick Act" apply to me?

A. OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, including its 2001 revisions, applies to all employers who have employees with reasonably anticipated occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). These employers must implement the applicable requirements set forth in the standard.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) raised some concerns about the "needlestick safety and prevention act" affecting childhood immunization programs. OSHA addressed those concerns in their response. Click the link below to read AAP's concerns and OSHA's response.

https://www.osha.gov/redirect?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=24003.

Q. Will OSHA enforce the new "needlestick safety and prevention act" during their inspection?

A. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has notified compliance officers of its intention to start imposing sanctions against health care facilities that do not use safe-needle devices. OSHA also said that facilities need to conduct yearly audits of their bloodborne pathogen programs, and must integrate new technologies wherever possible to protect their employees from exposure. Facilities affected include hospitals, home health service organizations, employment agencies, independent health care professionals, and independent contractors. About 800,000 hospital workers are accidentally punctured by needles each year. HIV is present in about 2 percent of those cases, but only a small number of workers actually contract the virus.

Q. What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

A. SDS is a form of hazard communication that contains elaborate information about the chemical it accompanies. Manufacturers and importers shall prepare or obtain SDS for each hazardous chemical they manufacture or import, and transmit them downstream to distributers and employees. Employers shall make sure that they receive SDS for each chemical the facility uses. Employees in every work shift should know where SDS is kept, and should have immediate access to it when needed. If there are hazardous chemicals for which no SDS has been received, the employer must write to the manufacturer, importer or supplier to obtain the missing SDS. If SDS is not received within reasonable time employer shall contact nearest OSHA office.

Q. Are medications in solid and final form for direct administation to patients a hazardous chemical for purposes of material safety data sheet?

A. A hazardous chemical as defined by the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), is any chemical which can cause a physical or a health hazard. This determination is made by the chemical manufacturer, as described in 29 CFR 1910.1200(d). Drugs are potentially hazardous chemicals, as defined by the HCS, therefore, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals must conduct a hazard evaluation for their products. If the pharmaceutical company determines that their product is a hazardous chemical, the downstream users, including physicians' offices, are required to maintain the MSDS. However medications which are in solid, final form for direct administration to the patient (tablets, capsules) are exempt from this requirement.

Q. Is there an ergonomic standard by which OSHA can enforce ergonomic violations?

A. OSHA will conduct inspections for ergonomic hazards and issue citations under the General Duty Clause and issue ergonomic hazard alert letters where appropriate.

Q. What are OSHA's inspection priorities?

A. OSHA’s top priority are reports of imminent dangers-accidents about to happen; second are fatalities or accidents serious enough to send three or more workers to the hospital. Third are employee complaints. Referrals from other government agencies are fourth. Fifth are targeted inspections-such as the Site Specific Targeting Program, which focuses on employers that report high injury and illness rates, and special emphasis programs that zero in on hazardous work such as trenching or equipment such as mechanical power presses. Follow-up inspections are the final priority.

Q. Can you be inspected by OSHA?

A. OSHA selects facilities for random inspections. Current employee (not former) complaints are the #1 reason that a facility is inspected. OSHA protects employees who complain under the Whistelblower Protection Act. Of course, an accident resulting in death or injury resulting in hospitalization can also trigger an OSHA inspection. 

Q. What are the top ten violations in the healthcare industry?

A.

  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Hazardous Communication Standard
  • Electrical, Wiring Design (Extension Cord Violation)
  • Control of hazardous Energy/Lockout/Tagout
  • Personal Protective Equipment, General Requirements
  • Log and Summary of Ocupational Injuries and Illnesses
  • Electrical System Design
  • Machines (Machine Guarding)
  • Medical Services, First Aid (Eye Wash Station)
  • Electrical, Wiring Design (Improper Grounding)

Q. What is a de minimis violation?

A. It is a minor violation which carries no penalty. According to OSHA, not posting a citation in the workplace is a de minimis violation.

Q. During an inspection, what are the inspectors looking for?

A. Inspectors, who come on a random OSHA visit to a healthcare facility, will have a checklist that they refer to when they look for compliance. However, OSHA inspectors, who respond to a complaint, will specifically look for the complaint they received in addition to the checklist. Sometimes OSHA complaints are resolved via telephone or fax. In any case, OSHA inspectors will look into your mandated safety plans to see if all aspects of the regulations are covered. Training and medical records are also inspected. Merely covering bloodborne pathogen and hazard communication standards by healthcare facilities is not enough. OSHA is concerned about the compliance of all safety standards relevant to healthcare facilities.

Q. Do I need to put up an OSHA poster in my workplace? Where can I get a copy?

A. Yes, all employers need to post the federal or a state OSHA poster to provide their employees with information on their safety and health rights. We provide free posters, both in english and spanish, with every order of OSHA Manual or you may order a printed copy from OSHA Publications at 1-800-321-OSHA.

Q. What are the inspectors looking for during an inspection?

A. Inspectors who come unannounced to a healthcare facility would have a checklist when they come to inspect the facility. However, OSHA inspectors, who respond to a complaint, will specifically look for the complaint they received in addition to the checklist. Sometimes OSHA complaints are resolved via telephone or fax. In any case, OSHA inspectors will look into your detailed safety plans to see if the record keeping aspects of OSHA regulations are covered. Employers must be aware that merely covering bloodborne pathogen standard and hazard communication standards by healthcare facilities are not enough. OSHA is concerned about the compliance of all safety standards relevant to healthcare facilities. Recently, OSHA has issued guidance to inspectors to assess healthcare facility's preparedness against workplace violence. 

Q. What is a "General Duty" Clause?

A. OSHA has established rules and regulations for the prevention and control of different kinds of hazards which are called standards such as bloodborne pathogen standard, chemical hazard communication standard, electrical safety standard, fire prevention standard, and many others. OSHA has no established standards for many other kinds of workplace hazards, which could affect health and safety of employees. However, OSHA could cite an employer for permitting any unsafe conditions to exist at the workplace which could affect the health and safety of an employee using the General Duty Clause.

The General Duty Clause, Section 5 (a) (1) of the OSHA Act requires the employer "to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

Q. What are recordable injuries?

A. Recordable injuries include injuries that result in:

  • Death
  • Lost workdays of one or more days
  • Restriction of work or motion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Transfer to another job
  • Medical treatment,
  • other than first aid

Q. What must be the size of the "EXIT" sign?

A. Every exit sign shall have the word "EXIT" in plainly legible letters not less than 6 inches high, with the principal strokes of letters not less than three-fourths-inch wide.

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