Why is OSHA so Important?
Established in 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has worked with its state partners to ensure better working conditions for America’s labor force. Since the agency’s inception, the number of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities have dropped dramatically. Worker deaths are less than half of what they were fifty years ago, and injuries and illnesses have fallen by nearly 75 percent.
Critical OSHA Milestones
Over the years, the agency has had a significant impact on the health care space. Here are a few critical milestones where OSHA has made inroads to health care worker safety:
- November 1983: The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)
This gives workers the right to know which chemicals they may be exposed to in the workplace and the hazards those chemicals present. Employers are required to provide information and training to workers on the dangers that exist and proper protection. In September 2012, the agency updated the ruling to include a standardized approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data sheets and to align the Standard with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System.
- December 1991: Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
Designed to protect workers from HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B, this landmark standard is one of the most important health care related rules OSHA has issued. It has substantially reduced the spread of dangerous pathogens and help to preserve the safety and health of millions of health care workers.
- January 2001: Preventing needlestick injuries
After the bipartisan Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act passed, OSHA strengthened its worker protections for bloodborne pathogens, especially related to training and engineering controls to limit needlesticks.
- June 2010: Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
This requires employers to implement a systematic approach to finding and fixing safety and health hazards in their workplaces. It has helped providers be more proactive about safety, identifying and mitigating risks before they turn into problems. Some OSHA State Plans have made IIPPs mandatory, and federal OSHA advocates such programs on a best practice or voluntary basis.
In addition to these groundbreaking initiatives, in collaboration with its counterparts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and research made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA has fostered a safer environment for health care workers through initiatives such as the Hospital Respiratory Protection Toolkit and recommendations regarding fall prevention, ergonomics, opioid use, workplace violence and more.
Aligned around a common purpose
Across all its efforts, OSHA is clear about its passion for safety. Stericycle is proud to share a parallel mission, offering a range of services and solutions that help health care organizations safeguard their workers, communities and the environment. Our robust and accessible compliance training resources, sample policies and procedures, and diverse waste management programs—including one specifically aimed at sharps management—can limit the likelihood of staff injury, promote a more healthful workplace, and ensure compliance—not to mention support an organization’s goals for sustainability.