Could you Spot an OSHA Violation if you saw one?

By: Ken Arnold, 10/29/2010

Over the last few months, I have heard from 4 different companies that have either experienced a recent OSHA audit, or were anticipating one at any time. One company was cited and fined for not having their chains secured in the cab of the company truck and for not having a MSDS sheet available for the detergent they used to wash company vehicles. When it comes to transporting medical specimens, would you be able to spot an OSHA violation? There are several possibilities, and the fines could be significant. One of the violations that I come across most often is when a driver carries medical specimens to or from their vehicle to a clinic or lab with their bare hands. No "puncture resistant, biohazard marked container," just their hands. Drivers may get in a hurry, think that nobody is watching, and take what seems to be the path of least resistance. In doing so, they put themselves at risk, the public at risk and the patients at risk, should there be an incident. The "work area" violation is another that I see all too frequently, mostly in labs and clinics. OSHA requires that hospitals, labs and clinics establish the areas where they collect, store or work with blood or other potentially infectious materials as "work areas," and as such, no drinking or eating is allowed. Just yesterday, I went into a clinic/lab and saw an open baggie with cheerios in it within inches of a specimen rack. On an adjacent counter, there was a cup of soda, again, within inches of a rack filled with medical specimens. The lab tech's explanation was that, "We don't have our own break room." I've often joked that if I could be a "snitch" for OSHA and get even a small percentage of the fines for violations in these clinics-I could have retired long ago. When it comes to "work area" compliance for medical couriers, the issue is simple. According to OSHA, the mere presence of medical specimens makes the vehicle a "work area," and all a driver has to do to be in compliance is to be sure the specimens he is transporting are NOT in the front seat of his vehicle, but in the back seat, (secured) or on the rear floorboard or in the trunk. That would be sufficient separation and the driver can eat, drink, smoke, etc. Moving ahead to the New Year, be certain your drivers are in full compliance with OSHA regulations when transporting medical specimens. Call us at Integrity Medical Courier Training, we can help you be sure you can pass an OSHA audit, and effectively and safely serve the medical community and have a lasting impact on delivering excellent patient care.