Under the new Administration, OSHA is becoming very aggressive in its inspection and enforcement. Several areas are of particular note to the healthcare industry.
Controlling Employer Liability – OSHA can cite “controlling employers” (owners) at worksites where there are multiple employers if there are safety or health hazards to which employees of another employer are exposed. For example, OSHA has cited a hospital when janitorial employees of an outside contractor at the hospital were exposed to bloodborne pathogens while cleaning waste receptacles. OSHA can also use this policy for criminal charges if there is a fatality. Hazardous Chemicals – OSHA is focusing on healthcare employees and their exposure to hazardous chemicals that can cause illness to healthcare employees (e.g., pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy medications) or present a safety hazard (e.g., gasses that can cause fire or explosion). Electrical Safety – OSHA focuses on electrical hazards to maintenance employees who may work on or in vicinity to live electrical equipment where there is a hazard of injury due to “arc flash” or “arc blast” from live electrical equipment and no compliance with NFPA 70E requirements, particularly during “troubleshooting.” Workplace Violence – OSHA is using its General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1)) to require healthcare organizations to develop workplace violence prevention programs for their facilities as a result of statistical data on the industry. Whistleblower Protection – OSHA is investigating whistleblower complaints from healthcare employees who claim they have been retaliated against for making safety-related complaints, seeking job reinstatement or other damages.