OSHA Guidelines in the Exam Room

Female doctor comforting female patient lying in hospital bed
••• Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States regulates how hazards are dealt with in the work place, benefiting the safety of employees and customers. OSHA guidelines apply to workplaces across the board, but are rarely more important than in the hospital or clinic, where patient care is contingent upon clean, safe facilities. Exam room guidelines are meant to provide health care providers and employees the best work environment possible, all while protecting the health of the people that doctors and nurses are meant to help heal.

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE), including the gloves and masks worn by surgeons and doctors, are to be provided for use in the exam room. Such equipment is deemed necessary if procedures or the environment may be dangerous, or if chemical, mechanical or radiological hazards are present. All PPEs are laundered or disposed of at no cost to the employee. In the exam room, PPEs are required to be worn under certain circumstances, one of the most important of which is when contact with bodily fluids is anticipated. Doctors are also required to wear certain types of protection in the exam room, such as gloves, if exposure to other hazards, such as dangerous chemicals, may be present.

Prevent Infection

Because individuals in the exam room are likely ill, a doctor must take every precaution to prevent the spread of infection. Following the bloodborne pathogens standard, including recordkeeping and proper disposal of sharp objects, is one key step. Proper hand washing is also required as it prevents the spread of disease—especially resistant strains such as MRSA—from patients to employees or other patients. OSHA’s “universal standards” for dealing with all bodily fluids are to be followed strictly to ensure that no human waste or discharge allows infection to spread.

Equipment Hazards

According to OSHA, improperly trained employees and exposure to equipment that has been poorly maintained can cause injury in the exam room, to hospital employees and patients alike. Therefore, OSHA requires that all electrical equipment in the exam room be regularly inspected, cleaned, properly grounded, and that employees be trained to use such equipment. Even small things that may go unnoticed, such as a frayed cord or a malfunctioning piece of equipment, may end up being a safety hazard in exam rooms throughout a hospital or clinic. PPEs must also be worn when a hazard has been assessed with the electrical equipment in an exam room.

Related Articles