More workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other private industry sector.

blurred figures wearing medical uniforms in hospital surgery corridorSo says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). One study put the incidence rate for work related nonfatal injuries and illnesses in health care and social assistance at nearly 40% higher than that experienced in all private industry.

Healthcare is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 18 million workers. Health care workers face a wide range of hazards on the job, including sharps injuries, harmful exposures to chemicals and hazardous drugs, back injuries, latex allergy, violence, and stress. Although it is possible to prevent or reduce healthcare worker exposure to these hazards, healthcare workers continue to experience injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

That said, it is critical for ASC management to address its workplace safety program whether that be to create one if one does not exist … or refurbish an existing program to ensure it is maintained, enforced and responsive to changing conditions, threats and work processes.

The choices of how to proceed are straightforward … do it yourself (DIY) or seek assistance from a third-party consultant. In this article, we’ll look at developing the key elements of a successful workplace safety program with the options being DIY or choosing OSHA as your no-cost consultant.

10 Steps to Maintain OSHA Compliance

In keeping with OSHA’s general description of key elements of a successful Injury and Illness Prevention Program, you may choose to initiate actions along the lines of the following:

1. Be knowledgeable about both federal and state OSHA regulations. While the mention of OSHA is typically associated with federal rules, there are state regulations that may differ from the federal. When there is an inconsistency, best move is to go with the one that is strictest.

2. Appoint a leader to serve as workplace safety coordinator. This person will serve as the ASC’s safety officer with the responsibility and authority to address and promote safe practices in the workplace. Typically, the safety officer will assemble a safety committee to implement the workplace safety program. Those duties include creating a plan for employee safety, training ASC personnel on OSHA standards, periodically assessing compliance and create checklists and programs for risk management.

Additionally, the safety officer and ASC safety committee will stay up-to-date on trends, issues and new OSHA regulations concerning employee safety. Developments in matters such as laundering surgical scrubs, infection control and the introduction of new chemical products and healthcare devices are constantly evolving and it is important to be on top of the most current developments.

3. Enlist participation by ASC employees. Employees must buy-in to participate in the training and apply that knowledge to the real-world of their daily on-the-job activities. Also ASC staff input can be valuable in both the assessment and remedial efforts of the program as they are dealing with the realities every day in their work. Involving worker-team members in planning and executing workplace safety demonstrates engagement and commitment.

4. A thorough assessment of your ASC’s surroundings is critical. Your workplace is unique in its risks and dangers, so it is your responsibility to know what promotes a danger to your employees. While researching the safety and level of effectiveness of medical devices can be both daunting and expensive, that may be mitigated by a regular review of healthcare literature for current
updates and research. Also, your vendors can be excellent sources of up-to-date information on newer or safer product versions.

5. Take immediate action. Based on your risk assessment, take immediate steps to make necessary repairs or alterations to better ensure safety. When elimination of hazards is not an option, systems should be initiated to control them.

6. Implement safe work procedures. Communicate those actions to all ASC employees. Prompt participation by employees to agree on a fair disciplinary system that will underscore your resolve to enforce the rules. Position the procedures to be monitored under a zero-tolerance policy to ensure compliance.

7. Create an emergency action plan … based on crises that may threaten your ASC. The plan should incorporate periodic practice drills of appropriate responses to recognized perils including emergency medical procedures, fire and natural disasters. This will instill confidence that the onset of the emergency is not the first time anyone thought about what to do.

8. Encourage employees to be diligent in communicating. Reassure ASC staff that they will not be viewed as “whistle-blowers” when reporting lapses in procedures as well as reporting hazards either not previously identified or that are new to the ASC.

9. Establish a process for receiving visitors. Visitors to your ASC will not be familiar with safety procedures, and may represent a risk to themselves or others. Therefore, establish a process that includes restricted access without signing in, presenting picture identification and accompaniment by an approved escort while on the premises.

10. Conduct background checks on employment candidates. Background checks help protect employers by reducing exposure to legal liability for negligent hiring and failing to ensure a safe workplace.

Where to Start or Refurbish Your ASC Safety Program?

osha3Here’s a real plus that is often a little known or ignored benefit available to ASCs through OSHA. It is the agency’s free On-site Consultation Program.

Requesting advice via this no-cost service is a smart move whether or not you have a workplace safety program in place at your ASC. For example, if you have one in place, a fair question is how well is it maintained, enforced and responsive to changing conditions, threats and work processes?

The OSHA Consultant will bring you up to speed on knowing your requirements as an employer under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Not only is this service free, it is absolutely confidential.

The objectives are to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.

On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or
citations. Read more about on-site consultation services

Injury and Illness Prevention Program

Under the OSHA law, employers, including ASCs, have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. View a short summary of key employer responsibilities.

Most successful Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are based on a common set of key elements. These include: management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.

OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs topics page contains more information including examples of programs and systems that have reduced workplace injuries and illnesses.

Next Steps

Your unique ASC environment and operations may include attention to some or all of the above workplace safety issues, planning and implementation. Likewise, there may be other actionable items to consider. Once you have your Illness and Injury Prevention Program in place, commit to regularly review each job performed in your ASC and set up a system to ensure your hazard controls are fully functioning and executed. Plus, frequently self-assess changes in job functions, equipment or environment that may trigger revisions or additions to your workplace safety measures.

Please remember: Workplace safety is all about protecting your ASC’s most valuable asset – your staff.

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