LAB SAFETY

Don’t Overlook Bloodborne Pathogen Safety Issues

Violations of Medicare-related laws such as the Anti-Kickback Statute, self-referral law and the False Claims Act can cost laboratories and pathology groups potentially millions of dollars and thus, compliance regarding these laws gets a lot of attention. However, there are other compliance risks laboratory compliance officers shouldn’t lose sight of as well. While the OIG, DOJ, CMS, and FDA may be acronyms that you think of most often when you think of compliance, there are some other enforcement agencies that should also figure prominently in compliance programs. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) should be a top concern for clinical laboratories.

OSHA enforces workplace safety law which includes a general duty clause that requires laboratories, like all other employers, provide a safe workplaSorce for their employees. But there are some specific safety issues that labs should be paying particular attention to, such as bloodborne pathogens. Bloodborne pathogens may be an obvious issue for clinical laboratories but it’s often easy to overlook the obvious. Just a few years ago, LabCorp found itself in trouble with OSHA and paid more than $50,000 in fines relating to bloodborne pathogen hazards. OSHA claimed that phlebotomy technicians didn’t receive required training before working with blood and workers didn’t receive training about handling exposure incidents. More recently, OSHA announced last year that an emergency medical transport company could be subject to more than $235,000 in fines after OSHA inspectors found during a February 2015 inspection that the company failed to protect workers from bloodborne pathogens. Allegations included claims that the company failed to train workers regarding hazards and precautions to prevent exposure and didn’t require workers to use gloves and face masks when in contact with infectious materials.

OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standards require regular training for workers before they work with blood and the training must address what to do in response to an exposure incident. So do a compliance review of your training programs, and your policies and procedures with regard to bloodborne pathogens and make sure they are up-to-date and being consistently followed. For discussion of other government agencies that should be getting your attention, see “Compliance Perspectives: Compliance is About More than Kickbacks, Referrals, & False Claims Liability: Check Our Top 3 Compliance Areas You May be Overlooking” in the August 2015 issue of G2 Compliance Advisor.

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