doctor examining infections control substance

All about Hazardous Chemicals and Hazard Communication


From disinfecting sterilants and cleaning agents to toxic drugs and laboratory reagents, the typical work environment in the healthcare sector is chock-full of potentially harmful materials. So if you own a medical, dental, or veterinary practice, you’re probably aware that handling certain hazardous chemicals and toxic substances comes with the territory.

The question is, do your employees know this too?

OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires employers to ensure that all their workers know and understand the risks that exist within the workplace. This way, they can take the necessary precautions to prevent illnesses and injuries due to exposure to chemical sources.

OSHA Regulations for Hazardous Chemicals

OSHA has a long list of requirements designed to keep people who work closely with hazardous chemicals safe. Many of these guidelines are included in the Hazard Communication Standard or HCS.

OSHA’s HCS has two major components. One applies to the manufacturers and importers of toxic substances, and the other covers employers and how they must manage the risks in the workplace.

Safety Starting With the Source

Safety must begin at the source; in this case,  the manufacturers and importers of the chemicals.

They must first be able to properly evaluate the hazards that come with handling and using the products they sell or import. It is essential to understand that this process does not just involve determining the potentially harmful effects of the chemicals themselves but also when they are mixed with other substances.

From there, they should prepare the appropriate labels and other forms of warning that will help their employees and end users identify or understand the risks. These labels have to follow a standard when it comes to using signal words, pictograms, and precautionary statements.

Enforcing a single labeling guideline that applies to all stakeholders guarantees that there is no room for misinterpretation. This way, there won’t be any confusion that could result in someone somewhere in the supply chain mishandling a hazardous chemical and getting hurt because of it.

Aside from providing the label, manufacturers and importers should also create a Safety Data Sheet or SDS for each of their products.

SDS is written or printed material that identifies the chemical and its composition, the hazards it carries along with the corresponding first aid, and accidental release or fire-fighting measures. It also contains proper handling and storage techniques and other relevant information.

Basically, an SDS outlines everything your employees need to know so they can work safely around a hazardous chemical.

Similar to labels, the SDS also follows specific standards when it comes to the layout. As per OSHA, this document must come in a 16-section format.

The Employer’s Responsibilities

As an employer, it is your duty to maintain the same level of commitment to information dissemination. This is especially true in all work areas where hazardous chemicals are involved.

You must ensure that the labels are still present with each incoming shipment and remain intact for the benefit of all employees handling the toxic substance or performing their tasks around it.

These documents and warning materials must be accessible throughout each work shift.

Aside from maintaining the visual controls, see to it that all concerned employees undergo regular safety training. Note that the SDS and safety labels follow a certain format which is hard to understand properly for the uninitiated.

In addition, all workers must understand the importance of the labels and SDS so they do not remove, deface, or misplace any of these materials.

The Importance of OSHA Consulting and Training

OSHA has many strict requirements when it comes to the handling of chemical hazards in a work environment, and rightly so. More than 13 million workers in the US are potentially exposed to them, resulting in a wide range of illnesses like skin disease and over $1 billion annually in medical costs.

Adding another layer of complexity to workplace safety is that OSHA’s guidelines change from time to time. Nevertheless, it is the regulatory agency’s way of staying relevant and effective in the face of evolving technologies and improving work processes.

If you are willing to do the work to create a safe work environment for your staff but don’t know where to start, there are companies that can point you in the right direction.

Here at Physician’s Resource, we have a team of safety specialists that can help you spot and rectify safety concerns, eliminating all red flags that might be raised in case you come face-to-face with an OSHA auditor.

We can also guide you in coming up with a robust safety system and creating a solid safety culture that translates to zero illnesses or injuries due to hazardous chemicals.

Call us at 1-800-615-1729 for an obligation-free consultation with one of our safety experts today!

Doctor looking into ergonomic seating for medical office osha regulations

OSHA Guidelines for Ergonomics in the medical workplace

Work-related musculoskeletal disorder, or MSD, is one of the biggest challenges in the workplace, not only for employees but also for employers. This is especially true in the healthcare sector, where repetitive lifting of patients or other similar activities often leads to occupational injuries, resulting in pain, discomfort, and high costs.

The good thing is that ergonomics can help address the hazards before they lead to serious health issues like MSD.

Ergonomics is the process of adapting the workstation, tools, or job to the employee and not the other way around. This way, the work becomes safer and easier, and your staff becomes more productive.

OSHA Guidelines for Ergonomics

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, does not have specific regulations that apply to ergonomics in the workplace.

That said, Section 5 of the OSH Act of 1970 clearly states that the responsibility of the employers extends beyond complying with hazard-specific standards. They must create a safe workplace where people can perform their tasks without the risk of physical harm or death.

Based on this objective, OSHA came up with the following recommendations ergonomics-wise.

Engineering Controls

All employers covered by OSHA regulations should come up with engineering controls to eliminate or reduce the hazard that comes with certain tasks. This can be done by implementing physical changes to the area, such as redesigning tools and equipment to prevent awkward positions, installing a device to do the heavy lifting, or repositioning a table to encourage proper posture.

One of the biggest barriers that prevent some employers from taking this step is the cost. Naturally, you have to spend money to purchase new tools or make changes to existing equipment.

That said, investing in this type of solution can help prevent injuries, increase your team’s productivity, reduce lost work days, and boost the morale of your staff. At the end of the day, you will get more in return.

Administrative Controls

In some cases, you can implement administrative controls instead of spending money on engineering controls.

For instance, you can come up with a work standard where at least two people are required to lift heavy objects. This will help reduce the strain on your staff without costing you anything.

Another example is rotating your personnel to prevent prolonged exposure to repetitive movements. This includes assigning someone to relieve co-workers so they can take periodic breaks.

The key is to look for more efficient ways of doing things so your staff is protected from injuries or illnesses.

Personal Protective Equipment

The typical workplace in the healthcare sector has more hazards than most people realize. So it is understandable if you’re not able to eliminate all of them even after implementing engineering and administrative solutions.

In this situation, you can still protect your staff by providing them with personal protective equipment or PPEs. For instance, give them thermal gloves if they work under cold conditions or padding to reduce friction or the effect of vibration.

Other Recommendations

Aside from the above guidelines, OSHA has other recommendations for employers in the healthcare sector and other industries.

1. Management Should Lead the Way

Ensure that you provide strong management support as you go through the process of improving workplace ergonomics. Define your objectives clearly and communicate them to your staff. It is the best way to keep everyone on the same page moving forward.

2. Workers Must Be Directly Involved

In many cases, the success or failure of your ergonomics program would depend on the cooperation of your staff. After all, they are the ones who have to wear the PPEs and follow established work processes.

More importantly, they know their work areas very well and are in the best position to identify the hazards. So listen to them when they voice their concerns and keep an open line of communication with them.

3. Provide Safety Training

Training is a vital part of your safety journey. It helps ensure that your staff knows the ergonomics standards in your organization and that they know when and how to follow these guidelines.

They must learn how to use tools safely or wear PPE properly. Ideally, each employee should also know how to recognize the early signs of MSD.

4. Identify and Address Problem Areas

As much as possible, conduct a periodic review of your clinic or facility with the goal of improving ergonomics. This way, you can identify existing problems and anticipate potential issues. It is also a good practice to review injury records and worker reports.

Talk to the Experts

Improving workplace ergonomics is a complex task that is hard for anyone to tackle on their own.

Physician’s resource is here to help.

We have a team of safety experts ready to provide OSHA consulting and training services to businesses in the healthcare sector. With our help, you can identify and correct safety hazards, develop a strong ergonomics program, and comply with OSHA standards.

Call us at 1-800-615-1729 to schedule a free consultation with one of our safety specialists today!

Medical office practicing infections disease control regulations osha

All About Infectious Disease Control

People who work in the healthcare sector are often exposed to a wide range of infectious agents, from TB and MRSA to influenza and COVID-19. This is true whether they have face-to-face interactions with patients or perform ancillary tasks in a laboratory and other similar settings.

So if you run a medical, dental, or even veterinary practice, you cannot focus solely on providing high-quality patient care. You should also pay attention to the safety of your staff from exposure risks, whatever type of work they perform.

That said, diversity in the workplace settings of healthcare workers makes it more difficult to create and implement the necessary safety measures. The good thing is that you are not on your own, as OSHA is with you in every step of your safety journey.


OSHA, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is a large regulatory agency tasked to ensure that workers have access to “safe and healthful working conditions.” It has clear and actionable standards that business owners and medical practitioners have to comply with to protect their staff.

When it comes to the transmission of infectious agents, OSHA has a number of directives designed to help reduce the risks for occupational exposure. Here’s a close look at some of them.

Standard for Bloodborne Pathogens

In the context of workplace safety, the term “bloodborne pathogens” applies to microscopic organisms that can be found in human blood and have the potential to cause diseases upon exposure.

There are three major ways that these pathogens can spread:

  • Direct contact, where infected blood enters the body of a health worker
  • Indirect contact, like when an object contaminated with infected blood touches the skin of the health worker
  • Respiratory droplet transmission, where the health worker inhales droplets expelled via cough or sneeze

Exposure to bloodborne pathogens comes with a long list of possible diseases, but the biggest risks are hepatitis B and HIV. To protect your employees, you must comply with the following OSHA requirements.

1. Establish and Implement an Exposure Control Plan

The first step in protecting your employees from infectious diseases is to have a robust exposure control plan in place. This system should include a list of job classifications that are vulnerable to exposure and outline the steps they need to take in case they do get exposed to bloodborne pathogens.

2. Observe Universal Precautions

Universal Precautions is an approach to infection control where you and your workers handle human blood and other body fluids with extreme care as if they are infected with HIV, hepatitis B, and other diseases.

3. Engineering Controls and PPE

Employers must identify, evaluate, and administer effective engineering controls and work practices to isolate or remove bloodborne pathogens, such as containers for the disposal of needles and other sharp instruments, using self-sheathing needles, or implementing a needleless system in the workplace.

If there are risks that cannot be removed by these measures, make sure that your staff has access to the appropriate PPE.

4. Hepatitis B Vaccination and Post-Exposure Evaluation

OSHA states further that employers are supposed to make hepatitis vaccinations available to their employees at no cost to them. Also, in case of exposure, the employer should provide the necessary laboratory tests to the employee for free.

Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

Aside from ensuring that your staff is wearing PPEs designed specifically for bloodborne pathogens, there are other PPE standards that you need to be aware of so you do not run afoul of OSHA’s safety guidelines.

For instance, gloves, safety glasses, coveralls, full-body suits, and other pieces of equipment must be properly designed, made, and stored. On top of this, the PPEs must fit the wearer properly to ensure they are adequately protected and not dangerously exposed.

Finally, your employees must be trained on how to use the PPEs properly. They must know what to wear and when to wear them. They must also be aware of the limitations of the equipment and use it only as designed.

Standards for Respiratory Protection

Similar to the OSHA standards for bloodborne pathogens, employers are expected to come up with engineering and administrative controls to ensure that breathing air in the workplace is free from droplets and infectious agents that are airborne. Some of the common examples are general or local ventilation, enclosure of the affected work area, or using less toxic materials.

Additionally, if this approach does not eliminate all the issues, employees must have access to the appropriate respirators depending on the risks present in the workplace.

Consulting and Training Services

OSHA’s guidelines for controlling infectious diseases in the healthcare sector are comprehensive. It might be a bit much for medical practitioners or business owners like you to manage on your own. The good thing is that there are companies that can help you guarantee the safety of all employees in the workplace.

At Physician’s Resource, we provide OSHA compliance training and consultation to help you keep up with the agency’s constantly-evolving safety standards. We have a team of safety specialists ready to provide on-call advice and support, ensuring that you are audit-ready at all times.

Call us at 1-800-615-1729 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experts today!