Medical Waste Industry Insights

Healthcare Alert! Is Your Organization Putting Workers at Risk?

By David Ryan

Is your healthcare organization putting workers at risk?

Even for healthcare facilities who feel that answer is an unequivocal ‘no,’ the violations that lead to risk factors are far too common. Safety and compliance go hand and hand; meaning employee safety requires organizations to have a firm handle on what is required from a compliance standpoint.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. According to OSHA, 262 inspected facilities throughout the United States in 2017 received 866 violations totaling $1.77M in fines. This number is surprising given the resources and technology made available to healthcare organizations today.

Even more disheartening is the number of Bloodborne Pathogen BBP standard violations. These violations make up about one-third of the cited offenses. And while the BBP standard is something that has been widely discussed and talked about since its inception in the 1980s, when it comes it compliance, most organizations talk the talk without walking the walk. Let’s take a look at why.

Lack of Effective Training

Quick test: what is a bloodborne pathogen? Besides blood, what fluids contain BBP?  Where can you get a copy of your facility exposure control plan? What would you do if you were exposed to a BBP?

If you don't know the answers to these questions, then your BBP training has been ineffective, and your organization should take steps towards corrective action.

The frequency of training is another common issue. Most healthcare facilities don't realize that BBP training must be done upon hire and repeated annually for all employees with exposure. More importantly, the training must be effective and performed by a qualified person.  

The format of the training is another primary consideration. Many organizations use web-based training that is NOT effective and does not meet the OSHA standard. While web-based training does have advantages, it’s always best when an employee has access to a live resource so questions can be addressed in real time throughout training.

Web-based videos are a great supplement, but again, never as effective as live training by an expert who can answer questions and speak to training application in real-life scenarios.

Poor Record Keeping (Paper Violations)

Many healthcare organizations are unaware of the record-keeping requirements mandated by laws, and hence, end up with violation fines.

For instance, did you know employee training records need to be saved for three years?

How about records on vaccinations for employees with exposure? Those records must be saved on file in a separate employee folder in adherence to HIPAA laws and maintained for 30 years.

Needlestick injuries, on the other hand, are required to be logged separately, and efforts should be made to reduce or eliminate them over time using the information gathered in the log. This log must be kept for 30 years as well.

Improper Post Exposure Follow-Up

These are a few ways an employer can ensure that workers exposed to hazards are tended to properly. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are employees reporting injuries?
  • Do they know whom to call when exposed?
  • Does an employee understand all the methods of exposure?
  • Are you, as an employer, following up and receiving written opinions from medical professionals to ensure the exposed employee is getting the attention they need?

The law is unambiguous on the minimal actions that must be taken following an exposure incident. However, many organizations don’t ensure safety compliance systems, and by failing to do so, they put their employees’ health at risk.  (Read more about how to create a post-exposure plan.)

In Conclusion
It is unfortunate that, despite claims of “quality care environments,” safety compliance in healthcare is viewed more as a compliance issue rather than a safety culture issue. Some organizations may even see safety compliance as a waste of time or resources.

But the reality is this: an established safety culture goes hand in hand with an environment of effective quality care. Compliance standards should not merely be met with words and boilerplate procedures. They should be achieved through practice and exceeded with action. Employees have a right to a safe environment, and employers must ensure that they provide it.

Want to learn more about the comprehensive training and compliances programs offered by United Medical Waste Management? Learn more.


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