Protecting workers from pathogens. Employers must act now to comply with OSHA's new standard on bloodborne pathogens.Health Prog. 1992 Apr; 73(3):38-43.HP
A new standard set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires healthcare employers to implement sweeping new controls in areas such as record keeping, engineering, hazard prevention, and work practice. Through the bloodborne pathogen standard, which went into effect on March 6, OSHA acknowledges that healthcare workers face significant health risks as a result of occupational exposure to blood and other infectious materials. Although most prudent healthcare providers already adhere to the Centers for Disease Control's universal precautions, the OSHA regulations include several additional mandatory measures that are more specific and stringent. The additional measures include the development of an exposure control plan, procedures for responding to an employee's exposure to bloodborne pathogens, the implementation of certain engineering and work practice controls to eliminate or minimize on-the-job exposure risks, and the provision of personal protective equipment and information and training programs. OSHA estimates that the greatest cost component of implementing procedures to bring a facility into compliance is attributable to the purchase of personal protective equipment. Although the costs of compliance are substantial, OSHA has estimated that these costs represent less than 1 percent of the healthcare industry's annual revenues. Violation of the bloodborne pathogen standard may result in penalties of up to $70,000, depending on the severity of the infraction. Criminal penalties are also possible for willful violations that result in worker death.