June marks National Safety Month in the United States: a time for companies to recognize the value of workplace safety, improve their safety protocols as needed, and educate employees on best practices for a safe and healthful workplace.
National Safety Month recognition in 2022 is especially pressing for healthcare employers. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance sector than any other field. Unsafe working conditions can increase healthcare provider burnout and stress resulting in staffing shortages.
OSHA sets and updates workplace safety standards for organizations of all industries. Following OSHA standards ensures compliance and can also contribute to positive provider mental health and operational success. To help protect the well-being of their patients, staff, and providers, healthcare organizations should foster a culture of safety and health.
Safety plans are one aspect of a successful safety program. Safety plans detail how an organization meets applicable safety requirements and can be used for staff training on relevant safety topics. As OSHA regulations evolve, it is critical for healthcare organizations to regularly review and update their safety protocols. Examples of key types of safety plans include:
- Injury and Illness Prevention Program. An injury and illness prevention program establishes safety and health related practices, such as how workplace hazards will be identified and how unsafe conditions will be corrected. Creating and implementing this type of program can be effective in reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
- Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan (ECP). One of the first steps in preventing the spread of bloodborne pathogens (i.e. HBV, HCV, and HIV) is maintaining a BBP Exposure Control Plan (ECP), which outlines how to protect workers who may have occupational exposures to blood or other potentially infectious materials, as well as how employees should respond to potential exposures. OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires ECPs to be written specifically for each facility with potential occupational exposure. The plans are to be reviewed and updated at least annually and should be readily accessible to all affected workers.
- Hazard Communication Program. A written Hazard Communication Program provides guidance to employees who work with or have potential exposure to hazardous chemicals. A written program consists of four main elements:
- An explanation of the labels and other forms of communication used by the employee
- A list of hazardous chemicals present in the workplace
- Information on how to access the corresponding safety data sheets for those chemical
- Employee information and training, including how employees can protect themselves
- Emergency Preparedness Program. Emergency Action and Fire Prevention Plans provide information to employees about the potential hazards that arise when an emergency occurs and how they should prepare for such emergencies. Emergency plans will include key emergency contacts, evacuation procedures and muster points. Healthcare employees should be trained on how to respond in an emergency and assist with an evacuation if designated to do so.
- Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Exposure Control Plan (California Only). Organizations in California with employees who have potential exposure to aerosol transmissible diseases must develop and implement written procedures that protect employees from the spread of ATDs. The ATD Exposure Control Plan will include information on infection control, cleaning and disinfection, screening and referral, source control, training, and medical services.
- Respiratory Protection Program. When a respirator is required to protect employees, employers must maintain a Respiratory Protection Program with worksite-specific procedures, training, and information on respirator use. Respiratory Protection Programs can help employees identify the appropriate respirator for specific respiratory hazards and understand how to confirm a proper fit.
Frequently Asked Questions about OSHA Safety Plans
Does OSHA require safety plans to be site-specific?
Yes, OSHA requires that certain elements of safety plans address hazards that are specific to each facility in order to provide the best protection for affected employees.
How often is hazard communication (hazcom) training required?
Employees are required to receive hazard communication training upon initial assignment and whenever a new hazardous chemical is introduced.
Does OSHA require safety plans to be in writing?
Yes, with few exceptions, OSHA requires that safety plans, like those identified above, be in written form.
Effective planning and education can help healthcare leaders put safety at the center of their organization, and Stericycle is ready to help. Stericycle’s customer portal, MyStericycle.com, has an online safety plan builder and access to other templates to assist Steri-Safe® customers in the creation of site-specific safety plans and programs. Learn more about our solutions.