OSHA Violations: How to Protect Your Practice and Your PatientsGreg Garner
Complying with OSHA’s rules and guidelines is essential to ensuring the health and safety of your employees. Not only that, but it saves your practice from OSHA violations, which could lead to hefty fines. But with so many guidelines to follow, it’s easy to become non-compliant without realizing it.
With that said, if you’re curious about OSHA violations and fines, this guide has the answers. Keeping reading to learn more about OSHA citations and how you can avoid them.
Types of Osha Violations
There several different types of OSHA violations. When OSHA administers a citation, they do it based on the seriousness and the nature of the issue. Here are the violation categories:
A willful OSHA violation occurs when an employer knowingly fails to comply with a legal mandate with purposeful intent to disregard the guideline. Willfulness is also defined as an absolute indifference to the safety of employees.
An other-than-serious violation is given when there is a direct issue with job safety and the health of employees and staff. However, since the problem isn’t too hazardous, it’s classified as an other-than-serious violation.
A serious OSHA violation occurs when a workplace hazard may create a serious accident or illness that could potentially lead to severe physical damage or death. The only caveat to this particular violation is if the employer did not know or couldn’t have known about the issue.
A federal organization could be cited for repeatedly violating guidelines set by OSHA. If the agency has been cited before for the same or similar issue or for a serious violation, that’s grounds for consequences.
Also, if OSHA’s region-wide inspection history lists the organization for a prior notice within the last five years, they’ll receive a citation.
Furthermore, if the agency has received an other-than-serious violation or they have been inspected and received a previous OSHA notice within the past five years, it’s considered a repeated violation.
De Minimis violations aren’t as serious as the others and they don’t come with a monetary penalty because they don’t hinder the health and safety of staff members. However, the issue with the minimus violations is that they differ from OSHA’s technical rules.
If an employer has implemented a different way of doing things other than the way it’s specified per OSHA’s standards, that’s a problem. Although a company won’t receive a penalty for De Minimis, the OSHA inspector will notify the company and make a note of it in their case file.
Failure to Abate
A failure to abate occurs when an employer doesn’t resolve the issue stated in the violation in a particular timeframe. If it’s not done by the issue date, OSHA considers that as a failure to abate.
Since most violations pose a serious threat, OSHA expects the problem to be corrected as soon as possible. Therefore if it’s not done in a timely manner, there are fines associated with failing to comply on time.
OSHA Violations and Fines
There are maximum penalty amounts set in place for OSHA citations. States that use individual OSHA plans are also expected to set maximum penalty levels that are relative to federal guidelines. The following fines apply to each OSHA violation:
Willful and Repeated: $134,937 per violation
Failure to Abate: $13,494 per day past the abatement date
Serious, Other-Than-Serious, Posting Requirements: $13,494 per violation
When your practice receives an OSHA notice, the original or a copy must be posted at or near the area where each violation occurred. Doing so makes the employees aware of the potential hazards that they might become exposed to.
OSHA citations must remain posted for at least three business days or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer. Weekends and Federal holidays are not included in the required business days.
When employers receive OSHA citations, they must do the following:
- Correct the issue by the date listed in the OSHA Notice and/or,
- Ask for an informal conference within 15 business days from the time the OSHA Notice was received. Conferences are scheduled with an OSHA Area Director to review the OSHA violations and/or the abatement timeframe.
How to Comply With OSHA
For OSHA violations cited within the OSHA Notice, employers are required to quickly notify the OSHA Area Director by letter when the requested corrective action has been taken within the timeframe set in the OSHA violation.
The information sent to the Area Director is usually referred to as a Letter Of Corrective Action. It must detail the exact action taken in regard to the violation and advise of the exact date that each corrective action was performed.
If you have questions about abatement after the inspection, they should be addressed to the Area Director during the informal conference.
When the OSHA Notice allows for an extended period for abatement, you must make sure that employees are fully protected during that time. In this situation, your practice is required to give OSHA a periodic progress report on the actions taken during the extension.
OSHA Compliance Guidelines For Medical and Dental Offices
There are certain requirements that generally apply to medical and dental offices, no matter if they have 2 or 200 employees. The purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to save staff members’ lives, prevent injuries from occurring, and protect the health of America’s employees.
Below are the most common hazards found in dental and medical offices:
Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030)
This issue is the most commonly requested and referenced OSHA violations standard hindering medical and dental offices. Some general mandates of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard include the following:
- Written exposure control game plan that’s updated each year
- Consideration, activations, and use of safer, engineered needles and sharps
- Use of engineering and work practice protocols and effective personal protective protection like gloves, face masks, and gowns
- Hepatitis B vaccines given to exposed workers for free
- Medical follow-up in the case of an exposure incident
- Employee training
- Secure containment of all regulated waste materials
- Use of labels or color-coding for objects like sharps, disposal boxes, and containers
- Use of universal precautions
Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)
The hazard communication standard is also known as the “employee right-to-know” standard. It requires that workers have access to hazard information. The standard requirements include:
- A written hazard communication project
- Training for all employees
- A list of dangerous chemicals likes alcohol, disinfectants, sterilants, and anesthetic agents used or stored in the office
- A copy of the Material Safety Data for every hazardous chemical used or stored within the office
Ionizing Radiation (29 CFR 1910.1096)
This particular standard applies to healthcare facilities that have an x-ray machine and requires these guidelines:
- Restricted areas of the facility to reduce employee exposures
- Rooms and equipment labeled with caution signs
- Details of the types of radiation used in the office, including x-rays
- Staff members working in prohibited areas must wear individual radiation monitors like film badges or pocket dosimeters
Exit Routes (29 CFR Subpart E 1910.35, 1910.36, 1910.37, and 1910.38 and 1910.39)
These OSHA standards include the guidelines for providing safe and easily accessible building exits in case of fire or other emergencies. It’s vital to become familiar with the complete text of these standards because they provide instructions regarding signage and other problems.
OSHA consultation services can assist you. Or your insurance company or local fire/police departments might be able to help as well. Standard responsibilities include:
- Exit routes suitable for the number of workers in any occupied area
- An instruction manual of evacuation routes displayed in a visible location.
Electrical (Subpart S-Electrical 29 CFR 1010.301 to 29 CFR1910.399)
These guidelines address electrical safety rules to protect employees. OSHA electrical standards are in regard to electrical equipment and wiring in hazardous regions. If your practice uses flammable gases, you may require special wiring and equipment installation.
In addition to reading the complete details of the OSHA standard, you should also get information from your insurance provider or local fire department. You can also request an OSHA consultation for assistance.
Every workplace must put up the OSHA poster (OSHA Publication 3165), or the state’s OSHA plan equivalent. The poster details the worker’s rights to a safe work environment and information on how to file a complaint.
Furthermore, the poster must be displayed in an area where employees will see it. Your practice can download a copy or order a free copy from www.osha.gov or by calling (800) 321-OSHA.
Protect Your Practice: Avoid OSHA Violations
Hopefully, this article about OSHA violations helps you understand how to keep your practice protected. If your dental or medical office staff needs information on how to stay OSHA and HIPAA compliant, we can help. Our HIPAA exams provide bloodborne pathogens training, HIPAA for dental offices, compliance and ethics training, and more.
If you have questions about our products, call 1-888-362-2288 or contact us online.
We’re here to help your practice stay free from violations and fines.