Healthcare workers play a vital role in helping maintain our society. They help care for the sick and injured at a time when they are most vulnerable so that they can begin to heal.
Without them, we would not have the staff to support hospitals and healthcare clinics. Their health is just as important as that of the patients they are tasked with helping.
Because of this, OSHA healthcare regulations are strict and extensive. We’ll go over a few of the major ones that hospitals need to be aware of in order to keep their workers safe.
Personal Protective Equipment
Healthcare workers are unique for the sheer number of biological hazards they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Because of this, OSHA requires that hospitals provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for the head, eyes, face, and extremities. This equipment must also be maintained and sanitized whenever necessary due to various hazards, including:
- Healthcare processes
- Environmental hazards
- Chemical hazards
- Radiological hazards
- Mechanical irritants
If employees provide their own equipment, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the safety equipment is adequate and properly sanitized.
One of the most basic duties of healthcare providers is to handle patients in order to provide medical treatment. And since that is such a significant responsibility (with so many added risks if a person is injured or sick) OSHA has extensive regulations on the topic.
This is also a significant risk for workers as well. In fact, in 2017, nursing assistants had the second highest number of cases of musculoskeletal disorders. These injuries are typically due to overexertion when attempting to lift and transport patients.
OSHA has compiled extensive resources for hospitals to develop and implement safe patient handling training, assessments, policies, and procedures to ensure the safety of the patient and the healthcare worker alike.
Infectious Diseases and Bloodborne Pathogens
Hospitals encounter infectious diseases on a daily basis. As an employer, your job isn’t just to keep your patients safe but to protect your employees against health hazards brought on by exposure to infected patients. Infectious diseases are primarily transmitted in three ways:
- Physical contact
- Droplets of bodily fluids
Let’s say, for example, that you’re dealing with seasonal flu. It’s not as scary as Ebola, but your workers still should not have to go home with seasonal flu every day. Like other workers, healthcare workers are entitled to:
- A safe workplace free of reasonable harm
- Information and training about workplace hazards and how to prevent them
- The ability to review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- To file a complaint with OSHA if they believe their workplace is not meeting OSHA standards
As such, healthcare workers should always be provided with sanitizing materials and personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, when dealing with patients who have infectious diseases.
Hospitals should also take appropriate steps to ensure the disease is not transmitted to others, including sanitation and appropriate containment measures (depending on the disease in question).
OSHA Healthcare Regulations
Abiding by OSHA healthcare regulations isn’t just about the health of your patients – it’s also about the safety and wellbeing of your workers. They deserve to work in a safe and healthy environment, just like any other worker. And given the important work they do every day, their health and wellbeing are even more valuable.