In healthcare and other industries, overlooking hazards and failing to train employees who may be exposed to hazardous conditions can be a costly and fatal mistake. Consider a recent decision by an administrative law judge who agreed with all safety and health citations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against Jersey City Medical Center.
- OSHA cited the medical center for electrical hazards after a maintenance employee’s fatal fall after receiving an electric shock.
- OSHA said the decedent, who was untrained in electrical safety work practices, was repairing a ceiling light fixture when the incident occurred.
Following a three-day hearing, the judge found that the employer willfully failed to train the employee for the hazardous electrical work he was directed to perform. Additionally, the judge affirmed OSHA’s proposed penalties totaling $174,593.
“The outcome of this case shows the employer will be held accountable for willfully exposing employees to serious hazards, and the U.S. Department of Labor stands ready to litigate such issues when employers refuse to accept responsibility,” said the Department’s Regional Solicitor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in New York.
The decision by the administrative law judge demonstrates the importance of complying with OSHA requirements including training, and hazard identification and assessment.
Importance of complete OSHA training
According to OSHA, healthcare workers face a number of serious safety and health hazards. They include bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards, potential chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures, respiratory hazards, ergonomic hazards from lifting and repetitive tasks, laser hazards, workplace violence, hazards associated with laboratories, and radioactive material and x-ray hazards.
While there is often some confusion from employers with what exactly they need to be training employees on, the decision by the administrative law judge demonstrates the importance of ensuring that all employees who may encounter any potential safety and health hazard must be adequately trained. Healthcare Compliance Pros highly recommends OSHA training to be completed within 10 days of hire and annual refresher training for all OSHA standards applicable to your industry (e.g., healthcare).
Importance of hazard identification and assessment
OSHA has said that one of the “root causes” of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated. They also have said that a critical element of any effective safety and health program is a proactive, ongoing process to identify and assess such hazards.
To identify and assess hazards, employers and workers should:
- Collect and review information about the hazards present or likely to be present in the workplace.
- Conduct initial and periodic workplace inspections of the workplace to identify new or recurring hazards.
- Investigate injuries, illnesses, incidents, and close calls/near misses to determine the underlying hazards, their causes, and safety and health program shortcomings.
- Group similar incidents and identify trends in injuries, illnesses, and hazards reported.
- Consider hazards associated with emergency or nonroutine situations.
- Determine the severity and likelihood of incidents that could result for each hazard identified, and use this information to prioritize corrective actions.
Healthcare Compliance Pros OSHA Self Inspection tool is a perfect tool for helping organizations fulfill their hazard identification and assessment obligations.
Have questions about OSHA training or the OSHA Self Inspection tool? Contact us today by email: [email protected] or by phone: 855-427-0427