How to take control of OSHA compliance

April 25, 2016

Maintaining compliance with the rules and regulations that apply to medical practices can be a tall order, especially for small practices with limited resources.

Maintaining compliance with the rules and regulations that apply to medical practices can be a tall order, especially for small practices with limited resources. One way to meet this challenge is to use a step-by-step methodology, such as with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance.

OSHA requires compliance with an exhaustive set of worker safety standards. The size and scope of the guidelines can be overwhelming, particularly for smaller practices. OSHA rules apply to every aspect of the healthcare workplace and cover issues ranging from preventing blood- borne pathogens exposure to ensuring an ergonomically correct environment. 

Written in highly technical language that is not healthcare-specific, these standards can be difficult for someone who is not an OSHA expert to fully comprehend. As such, it can be tough to figure out what the requirements mean and how they apply to certain settings. 

Physicians should seek out information from experts in the field. There are numerous resources available, including consulting firms and technology vendors that offer programs to easily highlight the pertinent requirements. By using these tools, a practice can clearly spot areas of noncompliance and opportunities for improvement.

Although a small practice may think it can’t afford external assistance, taking advantage of these resources may be the most cost-effective option. The alternative is to hire additional staff to manage the process, which can be quite expensive. 

 

Key elements 

A good place to start is a written safety and health plan-otherwise known as an injury and illness prevention program. 

Though not yet a federal rule, many states require this type of plan, and it certainly is a best practice to have one. The document should describe how the organization will manage OSHA compliance, including how it will analyze the facility for deficiencies, execute prevention and control strategies and provide necessary staff training. 

Another policy to create is a written exposure control plan-a critical element in blood-borne pathogens standard compliance, something with which many physician practices struggle. This document should describe how an organization protects its workers from exposure and what the response would be if someone is exposed.

For written safety and health plans as well as exposure control plans, there are resources available that can walk staff through the creation process. A worker tasked with generating the plan does not have to be an OSHA expert.

Thorough training is also a must. OSHA mandates that organizations train their staff each year on specific topics. Some key topics to address are how to function in and preserve a safe and healthful environment, how and when to use personal protective equipment and how to prevent inadvertent exposure to dangerous chemicals and pathogens. 

Next, monitor compliance to make sure staff does not slip back into old habits or let policies lapse. OSHA requires organizations to keep workplans and policies current, and that is one of the first things an auditor will look for. Practices should establish a way to remind themselves to review and update any policies, training programs or other related initiatives.