Thursday, December 15, 2011

Employer responsibilities for supplying contract employees

My company supplies contract employees to healthcare facilities. What are my responsibilities under the Bloodborne Pathogens standard?

OSHA considers personnel providers, who send their own employees to work at other facilities, to be employers whose employees may be exposed to hazards. Because your company maintains a continuing relationship with its employees, but another employer (your client) creates and controls the hazard, there is a shared responsibility for assuring that your employees are protected from workplace hazards. The client employer has the primary responsibility for such protection, but the "lessor employer" likewise has a responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In the context of OSHA's standard on Bloodborne Pathogens, 29 CFR 1910.1030, your company would be required, for example, to provide the general bloodborne pathogens training outlined in the standard; ensure that employees are provided with the required vaccinations; and provide proper follow-up evaluations following an exposure incident. Your clients would be responsible, for example, for providing site-specific training and personal protective equipment, and would have the primary responsibility regarding the control of potential exposure conditions. The client, of course, may specify what qualifications are required for supplied personnel, including vaccination status. It is certainly in the interest of the lessor employer to ensure that all steps required under the standard have been taken by the client employer to ensure a safe and healthful workplace for the leased employees. Toward that end, your contracts with your clients should clearly describe the responsibilities of both parties in order to ensure that all requirements of the standard are met.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hepatitis B Vaccinations continued!

Any workers who have reasonably anticipated contact with blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM) during performance of their jobs are considered to have occupational exposure and to be at risk of being infected. Workers infected with HBV face a risk for liver ailments which can be fatal, including cirrhosis of the liver and primary liver cancer. A small percentage of adults who get hepatitis B never fully recover and remain chronically infected. In addition, infected individuals can spread the virus to others through contact with their blood and other body fluids.

An employer must develop an exposure control plan and implement use of universal precautions and control measures, such as engineering controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment to protect all workers with occupational exposure. In addition, employers must make hepatitis B vaccination available to these workers. Hepatitis B vaccination is recognized as an effective defense against HBV infection.

What to do if an employee declines the vaccination.

Employers must ensure that workers who decline vaccination sign a declination form. The purpose of this is to encourage greater participation in the vaccination program by stating that a worker declining the vaccination remains at risk of acquiring hepatitis B. The form also states that if a worker initially declines to receive the vaccine, but at a later date decides to accept it, the employer is required to make it available, at no cost, provided the worker is still occupationally exposed.