OSHA Adopts Expanded Enforcement against Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Residential Care Facilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced a new and stricter enforcement policy for the healthcare industry, promising to crack down on the most common hazards in hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities. The new federal enforcement policy, which OSHA expects states to adopt, as well, requires that OSHA inspections in these healthcare facilities focus on at least five major hazard areas, regardless of the original reason for the inspection.

The policy, released on June 25, represents the second time in two months that OSHA has warned those in the healthcare industry of its intent to increase enforcement. In April, OSHA issued revised guidelines for preventing workplace violence against workers in the healthcare and social service fields. The agency states that it is responding to “some of the highest rates of injury and illness” for these workplaces when compared with industries tracked nationwide. This includes “57,680 work-related injuries and illnesses” in U.S. hospitals, a rate “almost twice as high as the rate for private industry as a whole,” according to OSHA.

Five Specific Hazards

The new enforcement policy promises that OSHA will monitor closely compliance with health and safety rules relating to:

  • Safe patient handling,
  • Workplace violence,
  • Bloodborne pathogens,
  • Tuberculosis, and
  • Slips, trips, and falls.

OSHA states that it is also interested in:

  • Exposure to multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and
  • Exposures to hazardous chemicals, such as sanitizers, disinfectants, anesthetic gases, and hazardous drugs.

Even if an inspection begins for an unrelated reason, OSHA now will take the opportunity to examine a facility’s compliance in each of these areas. It anticipates seeking access to employee medical records and interviewing employees to confirm what it finds in injury and illness records. Since these hazards are common in the industry and the policy, in essence, broadens the scope of each healthcare facility inspection and lengthier, broader, and more exacting inspections are likely to result — with the possibility that more citations and proposed penalties will be issued to employers in the healthcare industry.

For more go to the web site of the Jackson Lewis law firm.