Tuesday, November 3, 2015

OSHA Means Business Going Forward

OSHA Now Targeting The Health Care and Nursing Care Industries
Here’s more evidence your company needs to stay current on safety training: OSHA fines are heading skyward.  

Since 2010, the number of companies facing total OSHA fines above $100,000 has tripled.

This month, OSHA issued three penalties that topped one-million dollars and levied nearly a dozen citations carrying six-figure fines.

There’s more: Outgoing GOP house speaker John Boehner’s final peace offering – negotiating a compromised budget deal that would extend the debt limit and boost spending – took labor officials by surprise after finding that the agreement included a provision to hike OSHA fines nearly 50% in 2016.

The House approved the bill Oct. 28 and the Senate was scheduled to consider it Oct. 29. The bill includes a provision to adjust OSHA penalties annually based on the inflation rate.

Repeat and willful violations – which carry a maximum of $70,000 in penalties – contributed to the high dollar value of these fines. Machine guarding, lockout/tagout, trenching and fall hazards were among the common citations.

Here’s a sampling of October’s enforcement activities:
  • Regulators hit a Nebraska cleaning company with 30 citations and $963,000 in fines after a railcar exploded, killing two employees and injuring a third. OSHA said the company sent the workers to clean a tanker car filled with dangerous fumes despite warnings that the air quality inside the car showed a high risk of explosion.
  • Troubled Midwest furniture giant Ashley Furniture – already facing $1.7 million in OSHA fines from an inspection earlier this year – was hit for lockout/tagout hazards carrying $431,000 in penalties. In February, OSHA leveled 38 violations after inspectors discovered there were more than 1,000-work-related injuries at the plant over a 3 1/2 year period.
  • An Ohio chicken processing facility found itself facing $414,000 in fines after two workers were maimed while attempting to clean unguarded machines. Penalties levied against Case Farms now total over $1.4 million.
  • A commercial laundry company was hit with $305,300 in fines for repeatedly exposing workers to machine hazards. Three years ago, a 24-year old worker was killed when he was crushed by a conveyor belt.
  • osha finesOSHA orders pilot to be reinstated after being fired for refusing to fly unsafe medical transport helicopter
    A pilot working for Air Methods Corp. was illegally terminated for refusing to fly a medical transport helicopter with a faulty emergency locator transmitter. Following an investigation, OSHA ordered the company reinstate the pilot, pay $166,000 in back wages and damages and remove disciplinary information from the pilot’s personnel record. The company must also provide whistleblower rights information to all employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently intensified its scrutiny of the health care and nursing care industries. On June 25, 2015, the agency announced a new enforcement initiative targeting inpatient health care and nursing care facilities. But this increased scrutiny of the health care and nursing care industries does not end there—OSHA is spreading its enforcement reach to other types of health care entities.
Recently, OSHA cited LifeFleet LLC, an Ohio medical patient transportation company, for training shortfalls and bloodborne pathogen violations. OSHA alleged multiple violations, including several costly willful violations, and is seeking fines totaling nearly $236,000—a notably large amount. Typically, the fines associated with OSHA citations are very low, unless they are associated with fatalities. There were no fatalities in this case.
In discussing the magnitude of the fines against LifeFleet, OSHA’s Cleveland Area Office Director Howard Eberts said, “Failing to protect workers from pathogens that can cause life-threatening diseases is unacceptable. As a medical service provider, LifeFleet should be setting the standard in employee protection – not ignoring it.”
What does this mean to health care and nursing care employers? OSHA is targeting all health care and nursing care facilities, not just inpatient facilities. The agency is sending a clear message to the health care and nursing care industries in issuing citations carrying unusually heavy fines.
Here are a few action steps that employers can take right now to prepare for an OSHA inspection:
  • Conduct an internal OSHA compliance audit. The cost of conducting an internal audit and addressing hazards before an OSHA inspection is trivial by comparison.
  • Review all health and safety training programs. Ensure that all employees have been thoroughly trained—and have received refresher training, when appropriate—on all aspects of the facility’s health and safety policies and that they can demonstrate that they understood the training. It is advisable to conduct a quiz after each training session in order for employees to demonstrate their comprehension of the training and to keep quiz results and training attendee lists on file.
  • Consult with an OSHA attorney regarding preparations for an OSHA inspection. Most health care and nursing care employers have never experienced an OSHA inspection (LifeFleet, for example, had never been inspected before) and may not be aware of strategies that can be used to minimize work disruption during an inspection and reduce the likelihood of receiving an unwarranted citation.
Sources:  - http://www.cfodailynews.comhttp://www.oshalawupdate.com/, http://www.dol.gov/ 

For more information on this and other healthcare topics related to HIPAA, OSHA, Medicare and HR compliance please email support@hcsiinc.com or visit our website at http://www.hcsiinc.com 
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