7 Steps to Maintaining OSHA Compliance

Every business, including ambulatory surgery centers, is required to comply with requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The sheer number of rules and regulations set forth by OSHA can be overwhelming, but ASCs must still work to achieve compliance. Regina E. Dolsen, RN, BSN, MA, vice president of operations at Blue Chip Surgical Center Partners, outlines seven key steps to maintaining OSHA compliance.

1. Understand state and federal OSHA regulations. Although OSHA is generally known to operate at the federal level, there are state-level OSHA regulations ASCs must also follow that may differ from federal regulations. Ms. Dolsen says in order to remain compliant, ASCs should err on the side of caution and follow the regulation that is stricter. Federal and state regulations can be viewed on official federal and state OSHA websites.

"[The federal and state] OSHA websites have some great information available. It's a matter of understanding the stricter regulations and getting those under your belt," she says.

2. Designate a safety officer. The next step toward achieving and maintaining OSHA compliance is appointing one staff member whose duties include creating a plan for employee safety, training the surgery center on OSHA standards, assessing compliance on a regular basis and creating checklists and programs for risk management and quality, Ms. Dolsen says. Although establishing a safety committee is part of the process, it is important that the ASCs designate one person to quarterback these efforts.

3. Research the safety and efficacy of medical devices.
ASCs may not have the same capital and human resources that hospitals do to carry out researching the safety and efficacy of medical devices. However, there are several tactics to help ease that burden, such as regularly reviewing medical literature and healthcare journals for updates in medical devices and supplies. Vendors can be a great resource for information as well.

"ASCs should be assessing and analyzing its plan for employee safety on an annual basis to see where the successes and failures have been," Ms. Dolsen says. "ASCs should also be talking to vendor representatives to see if there is a newer and safer version of a certain product, such as needlesticks, for ASC employees to use."

Ms. Dolsen warns that ASCs should not stop researching and staying up-to-date once a decision has been made to implement a newer product. Rather, ASCs should evaluate for safety on an annual basis. ASCs sometimes think that since there may not have been an incident with a particular product, there is no need for an evaluation. OSHA regulations guide through this process and require some evaluation each year.

4. Stay up-to-date on safety issues. Ms. Dolsen says the most difficult aspect about OSHA compliance is staying updated on trends, issues and new regulations concerning employee safety. One hot-button issue to stay on top of is laundering of surgical scrubs. The debate has been ongoing for some time, and only time will tell whether it will be an industry-accepted standard to launder scrubs at home or a healthcare laundry facility. Issues like these should remain on the forefront of the safety officer and ASC's minds.

"Infection control is another area of discussion that has been circulating in the industry for some time and crosses over into OSHA," she says. "Certain infection control components, such as flu vaccines for employees and whether employees should come into work sick, are being updated by the CDC on an on-going basis."

Additionally, ASCs should keep up with the introduction of new chemical products in the ASC, the use of ergonomic devices and violence in the workplace.

5. Investigate when necessary. If a question or concern about a certain product, device or process arises or if an employee is injured, the ASCs should use this opportunity to investigate possible safety concerns. For example, a needlestick injury would necessitate review of the type of device used during the injury as well as the way in which the product is used.  

"Was it the device or was it the individual using the device? Is there a product that can prevent this from happening? An adverse event should always generate an investigation," Ms. Dolsen says.

6. Adequately train staff on OSHA standards. ASCs should set up an orientation program for all new staff to provide training on OSHA regulations. Annual training to maintain competency is also required. It is important to note that training and orientation should also have a "question and answer" breakout session, so staff members have the opportunity to ask questions for further clarification on OSHA standards, Ms. Dolsen says.

7. Involve your ASC employees. It is not enough to ensure that ASC employees receive orientation and annual training. Employees must also buy into cooperating with the regulations and participate willingly in the training. The ASCs commitment to OSHA compliance should be a priority for all employees, and each ASC should create a culture of safety. Further, ASCs should support the growth of that culture of safety by identifying the importance of safety through organizational goals and objectives.

Upon hire, assessing the safety risk for each employee based on their job description can be one way to encourage buy-in from that employee. Ms. Dolsen says the manager and the employee can discuss and evaluate the risks of the job and review the ASC expectations. Once there is understanding, the compliance is more likely to follow. This also sets the stage for measuring accountability since each party understands their role.

Learn more about Blue Chip Surgical Center Partners.

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