The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is American institution that is subject to the United States Department of Labor. The institution was established under the terms and conditions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act that was signed in 1970 by the Congress of the United States of America.
Under the terms of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA is allowed to publish and promote regulations in order to provide healthy and safe conditions in the work site (Curley, 2011). These regulations include such points as established limits concerning chemical exposure on the workplace, the employee’s right to have an access to information, the rules to use various individual protective equipment, and different requirements that guarantee the worker’s safety in the workplace.
OSHA is an institution that is allowed to enact regulations which are based on recommendations established by other standard organizations. Thus, OSHA does not need to undergo all the requirements which are set by rulemaking (Morgan). In addition, OSHA is responsible for giving effect to whistleblower documents.
OSHA performs two regulatory functions. The first function is to set workplace standards. The second function is to conduct inspections in the workplaces in order to ensure that employers provide healthful and safe working conditions for their workers according to the established regulations. Compliance Safety and Health Officers inspects the work sites. They are entitled to impose penalties for various regulatory violations (Judson and Harrison, 2009). Inspectors also examine different workplace incidents and handle complaints of workers.
It should be noted that certain workplaces are not regulated by OSHA. Such workplaces are subject to other institutions. The exempted workers are the following: men who work in the mines and quarries, self-employed workers, employees who work in a public sector, air crews and others.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Act allows American states and territories to affirm not only safety but also health plans, which are federally approved. These plans are partially funded by the federal government. The main requirement for these plans is that their regulations must provide as effective protection of workers as OSHA’s regulations. It is stated that twenty-two states in America adopt such plans (Curley, 2011).
The Federal OSHA Standards
The OSHA Standards regulate workplaces of four main groups: general industry, construction, maritime sphere, and agriculture. Some standards regulate just one category. Other standards regulate few categories simultaneously. The universal standards include access to personal protective equipment, access to medical records, hazard communication (Curley, 2011).
In addition, there should be accurate medical records of work-related illnesses and injuries in every workplace.
OSHA Health Standards and CDC Regulations
OSHA standards for public health care workers are often combined with regulations established by the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC). These standards include: medical hazard regulations, chemical hygiene plan, occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogen standards, medical waste tracking, training and accident report documentation, centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) guidelines, Clinical Laboratory Improvements Act (CLIA).
Medical Hazard Regulations
The main purpose of the Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) in the medical sphere is to increase the awareness of a practicing physician concerning the risks in the workplace. The regulations also assist in improvement of the work practice of a practitioner, explain the ways of usage of individual protective equipment, and help to reduce working injuries and illnesses (Morgan).
According to the HCS, all medical workers must fill in a hazard communication list because they have the right to obtain information about the hazardous chemicals. The list should include data about biological hazards, toxic chemicals, drug exposures, harmful equipment, dangerous wastes, and other hazardous materials that are used in the laboratories or medical setting (Judson and Harrison, 2009). It gives an opportunity to prevent different adverse effects when working with hazardous materials.
The Chemical Hygiene Plan
The Chemical Hygiene Plan is a written program that is also known as the Standard for Occupational Exposures to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. The aim of this document is to clarify the ways of handling hazardous materials, especially chemicals, in medical laboratories. According to the Chemical Hygiene Plan, medical officers who work in laboratories with hazardous materials should know the following:
- regulations and standards of the plan;
- the acceptable exposure limits for various hazardous chemicals;
- signs of exposures of hazardous chemicals, which are used in the laboratory;
- symptoms of poisoning by chemicals or gases;
- the ways of disposal and storage of chemicals in the medical laboratory;
- the requirements for observation of the safety procedures while working with hazardous materials (The OSHA laboratory standard).
It is important to procure, distribute and store hazardous chemicals in a correct way.
- Procurement. Medical workers must know the ways of handling, disposal and storage of the acquired hazardous chemical.
- Distribution. The hazardous chemicals must be delivered in leak-proof containers. It is better to use freight elevators to upload and unload the chemicals.
- Laboratory storage. All containers with the hazardous materials must be labeled correctly. Chemicals should be stored in a crash-proof containers or buckets in a well-ventilated place. Chemicals should be periodically replaced (The OSHA laboratory standard).
Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogen Standards
The Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standards was established in 1991. This document contains a set of rules to prevent the risk of contamination with such pathogenic infection as immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or the virus of hepatitis B. The standards were originally created to protect medical workers who have contacts with human blood or body fluids. The document provides different control techniques, requirements for use of medical equipment and protective clothing, marks and labels, and personnel training programs. In addition, workers are suggested to go through vaccination against hepatitis B (Morgan).
The Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standards includes the following regulations:
- Specimen containers should be prevented from penetration of foreign substance inside it. Such containers must have tamper-evident seals.
- The gloves must be worn during the handling of patient’s specimens such as blood or body fluids. The gloves must be changed after processing every specimen.
- Biological safety cabinets must be used for blending when a potential risk for droplets appears.
- It is forbidden to pipette blood or other fluids by mouth. Only mechanical pipetting devices must be used.
- Follow the strict regulations when working with needles.
- Always label the containers with fluids correctly.
- Clean the work surfaces using a chemical germicide (Judson and Harrison, 2009).
- Wash hands and remove protective equipment before leaving a medical laboratory.
Medical Waste Tracking
Under the terms of the Medical Waste Tracking Act, such medical wastes as blood, body fluids, vaccines, medical gloves, cotton pellets, speculums and other hazardous materials must be correctly stored and neutralized.
Sharp objects are stored in puncture-proof containers while chemicals are preserved in metal or glass containers. Other medical wastes are preserved in non-leaking biohazard bags (Judson and Harrison, 2009). Later, medical wastes are incinerated.
Training and Accident Report Documentation
Every worker holds a training program where the detailed information and training regulations concerning hazards in the workplace are provided. Training program includes information about working hazards, the location and explanations of MSDSs, requirements for labeling the hazardous chemicals, and measures that can be taken in dangerous situations (The OSHA laboratory standard). In addition, workers must keep a register of all illnesses and injuries that happened in the workplace.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines
According to the CDC guidelines, tasks for medical practitioners are divided into two groups. Category I includes tasks that suggest potential contact with human blood or body fluids. The medical officers should wear such protective equipment as gloves, gowns and eye masks. This category includes such tasks as the puncture of capillaries, pelvic exams, and throat culture.
Category II includes the tasks where the unplanned exposure can happen. These tasks include different injections, urinalysis, conducting fecal occult blood tests, examination of tears, sweat, or nasal mucus (Judson and Harrison, 2009). Thus, practitioners should wear protective equipment.
Clinical Laboratory Improvements Act (CLIA)
The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) of 1988, also known as Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, established quality standards for conducting laboratory tests (Judson and Harrison, 2009). The aim of the CLIA is to ensure such qualities of test results as accuracy and reliability. The main purpose of medical laboratories is to perform testing which gives information for diagnosing of a certain disease, its preventing or treating. Certain CLIA’s functions are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an institution that establishes approved rules and regulations for ensuring safe and healthy conditions in the workplace. OHSA’s inspectors examine the workplaces in order to find violations. The employer will pay the penalty if working violation is revealed. Moreover, the workers have the right to obtain information about the OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their work place. In addition, OSHA develops health and safety training programs for workers to reduce various workplace hazards.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration also provides various regulations and standards for medical workers. They must obey strict requirements while working with hazardous chemicals, human blood and other fluids.