How to stay on top of OSHA compliance
OSHA fines these days have a bit more of a bite. In August, the agency increased its maximum penalty from $7,000 per violation to $12,471, plus an extra $12,471 per day each day past the abatement date. And fines for repeated or willful violations have also grown from $70,000 to a whopping $124,709 per violation.
Because of the relative rarity of OSHA inspections compared to other agencies such as CMS or The Joint Commission, some clinics have seen OSHA compliance a lower priority. However, the new costs of noncompliance may give clinics a reason to shore up their workplace safety program, fast. So how can a clinic, particularly one strapped for resources, become OSHA ready?
Rose Comstock, COHSM, risk manager at Southern Trinity Health Services, Scotia, California has worked for 25 years in safety and compliance. The key to OSHA compliance, she says, is making sure leadership supports and cultivates a safety culture. For safety officers, that means making sure the hospital executive understands why these regulations matter.
“Safety initiatives can be met with some resistance, but safety regulations are generally promulgated because someone, or many people, died or were seriously injured as a result of circumstances at a workplace,” she says. “If you read the history behind OSHA anyone would fully appreciate why workplace safety is where it is today.”
Comstock says the first step to achieving full OSHA compliance is conducting a full review of all policies and programs. Clinics need to know that their policies are all up-to-date with current state and federal OSHA regulations.
Chris Mancillas, CIH, is senior vice president of EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants in Boston and has been working in the health and safety field for over 20 years. He says that when it comes to OSHA compliance, the biggest issue that most clinics encounter is a lack of resources. Part of this is that clinics can’t always afford to hire someone to deal solely with OSHA requirements. Therefore, the work gets added to someone else’s plate within the facility to deal with. Still, he says there are ways to resolve this.
“Aside from the typical third party safety consultants, there’s also their insurance broker,” he says. “They may have access to certain services through the insurance company. Sometimes you can ask the insurance carrier for some logics control, but sometimes the logics control guy is only going to so the eyes and ears for the underwriter. So I think going to their agent, their broker, can help in getting some services. They may have some internal safety consulting services. That person is not the eyes and ears for the underwriter, but he works for them and can provide a perspective of what an OSHA inspector might look at.”
Along with annually scheduled safety training, Comstock says that employees will need to be trained every time changes are made to clinic policies or after there’s a safety incident. This goes for all employees, even temp or part-time workers.
Questions you should ask when evaluating your training program are:
- When was the last time you gave your employees a copy of your Injury and Illness Prevent Program (IIPP?)
- Do they know what’s in your IIPP and which rules apply to them?
- Do they know how to report an illness or injury?
- Do they know who the program administrator is?
Clinics should also ensure that facility inspections are both regularly scheduled and properly recorded. When OSHA comes, you need to show that hazards had been identified and mitigated using proper documentation.