Health care facilities and medical offices are subject to several the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards whose purpose of is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers. OSHA accomplishes its work by establishing and enforcing standards and providing resources for training, outreach, education and assistance.
The checklist below is an overview of the main OSHA standards applicable to medical facilities. Its aim is to make you aware of the most relevant standards. However, full compliance with all relevant OSHA regulations requires a compliance manual. Several are available and designed specifically for physician offices. Obtaining a comprehensive manual and implementing its guidance are key to protecting your staff, patients, and visitors.
The OSHA poster (or state plan equivalent) outlines employee rights and how to report any violations. The poster must be in plain sight, such as in a break room or other place easy for employees to notice.
This standard protects staff from airborne and droplet pathogens like COVID-19. At a minimum, employers must provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), fit test employees for respirators, and train and monitor staff for proper use of PPE. In June 2021, OSHA released new standards governing any health care facility (including medical offices) who might reasonably treat patients with COVID-19. These standards govern screening all visitors to the practice, separation of employees by 6 feet or partitions, wearing of masks and respirators in patient care and non-patient care areas, and paid time out for COVID vaccination and COVID illness.
Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
This standard protects workers from coming into contact with bloodborne pathogens. It provides written requirements on exposure control, universal precautions, guidance on handling sharps, and what to do in case of exposure. Employees and contractors who work in a medical office must undergo annual training on bloodborne pathogen protocol. The employer must provide the training.
Hazard Communication Standard
This standard guides health care employers on how to properly communicate to their staff about workplace hazards. Hazards include specific chemicals and contaminated equipment/material, and other risks. The employer must communicate these hazards to all working in a medical office, including a third-party cleaning staff.
Exit Routes Standards
The exit routes standard is exactly what it says it is. Employers must notify employees of the facility’s protocol for emergency exits. The exit routes must be large enough to accommodate the space capacity for people inside the building. Diagrams of evacuation routes must be posted in plain sight.
These standards address electrical equipment and wiring, especially in hazardous locations. Medical facilities with flammable gases must install special wiring or equipment.
While OSHA does not have a specific standard for workplace violence. the extent of an employer's obligation to address workplace violence is governed by the General Duty Clause. Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It can affect and involve workers, patients, families and visitors. One of the best protections healthcare employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. The policy should cover all employees, patients, clients, visitors, contractors and anyone else who may come in contact with workers of the facility.
Reporting Injuries and Illnesses
Though there is no federal standard for this (for medical offices), state standards may exist. In addition to checking for those, it’s important to keep in mind that if there is a work-related fatality, or if three or more hospitalizations arise out of a single incident on the job, they must be reported to the nearest OSHA office.
Be prepared for random inspections. OSHA is allowed to show up at any facility unannounced and medical offices are some of the most frequent stops on these random visits.
It is the employer’s job to stay on top of OSHA regulations. They do change with some frequency. Employers must keep their policies, procedures, and staff in compliance. At a minimum, review and update the OSHA compliance manual and how it is implemented and understood in your office annually or whenever a compliance problem occurs. Orient new staff and provide ongoing OSHA training for current employees—annually is appropriate. Conduct remedial training when necessary. Record and report injuries and illnesses as required. Health and safety are at the cornerstone of pediatrics and should be a core value in how you treat your employees and all who come through your doors.
- Unites States Department of Labor, OSHA, Healthcare
- Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare and Social Service Workers
- OSHA Free Workplace Poster
- Bloodborne Pathogens Standard application to small healthcare facilities and the annual review of the Exposure Control Plan
- COVID-19 Healthcare ETS
American Academy of Pediatrics