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Infectious Disease

In 2016, OSHA imposed the highest fine on record against Altamont Ambulance Service: $290,000. Why? Investigators found the service guilty of twenty-four violations of health and safety standards.

Those included multiple, willful violations of the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Violating the Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) Standard comes with steep penalties. The standard means to prevent potentially lethal harms.

The BBP Standard mitigates the risk of bloodborne illnesses by mandating protective measures. Yet, frequently, employers fail to meet these standards.

This month, we'll look at two recent OSHA citations. We'll also examine three ongoing lawsuits over BBP Standard violations.

Bloodborne Pathogens News

Earlier this month, OSHA slapped two Austin, Texas businesses with fines that totaled over $13,000 combined. Officials cited them for failing to follow the infection's disease reporting regulations.

Then, two class-action lawsuits over mass bloodborne pathogen exposure continue through the courts. One is against HealthPlus. Patients filed the other against Buzz Naber, DDS.

Finally, survivors filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against a nursing and rehabilitation center. Plaintiffs claim the center is liable for an employee's death.

The center failed to meet infectious disease prevention regulations. The BBP Standard established these regulations.

The Dangers of Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens (BBP) are microscopic organisms that infect the bloodstream. A person can contract bloodborne illnesses by coming into contact with blood inadvertently.

HIV, Hepatitis C (HCV), and Hepatitis B (HBV) are all dangerous bloodborne viruses. Enterococci are potentially lethal bloodborne bacteria. Blood and mosquitos both transmit Malaria.

OSHA mandates standards that mitigate the dangers of bloodborne pathogens. These standards also reduce the risk posed by other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).

OSHA Mandates Bloodborne Pathogen Prevention

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal department. It keeps people safe at work and in public spaces.

OSHA standardizes procedures that mitigate the risk of BBP and OPIM transmission. They require procedures in places where people may contact blood or fluids. This includes annual BBP training for all employees.

The administration also mandates how employers must warn people about hazardous materials. These procedures and mandates are the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Lastly, OSHA establishes reporting protocols when infections happen in the workplace. A workplace must meet the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard if an employee is likely to encounter blood. Or, if staff reasonably expect to encounter OPIM.

Wrongful Death Suit, OSHA Penalty

The family of Maurice Dotson filed a wrongful death suit against West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. On April 17th, 2020, Dotson died of Covid-19. He contracted Covid-19 at West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he worked.

Dotson's survivors state that the Center is liable for his death. Dotson's employer did not provide him with Personal Protective Equipment.

OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires employers to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This mitigates the risk of infectious disease.

SARS-Cov-2 is not transmissible by blood. However, the BBP mandates procedures that mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection.

This includes PPE provision. The SARS-CoV-2 virus transmits via respiratory droplets that constitute OPIM.

West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center failed to provide PPE. As a result, Maurice Dotson contracted Covid-19 and then died.

OSHA had previously cited the center for a lack of infectious disease controls. The administration had fined West Oaks $11,567. The wrongful death lawsuit continues to move forward in Texas.

Dental BBP Malpractice Lawsuit Continues

In September 2019, Tennessee Public Health officials fined Buzz Nabers, DDS, $11,000. He ran two dental offices under the umbrella of Dental Studio West.

The department imposed the penalty over multiple health and safety violations. Health officials found Nabers guilty of:

  • improperly sterilizing tools
  • re-using single-use dental tools
  • forging continuing education certificates
  • enabling non-qualified employees to perform dental procedures
  • sanitizing dental chairs less frequently than standards mandate

The state dental board suspended Nabers' license. The state put him on probation for two years. In December 2019, former patients filed a class-action lawsuit against Nabers.

The lawsuit alleges Nabers is liable for patients' suffering. Some patients contracted blood-borne viral infections. The harmed class also experienced severe psychological and financial distress from Nabers' negligence.

The harmed class seeks $50 million in damages. The class requests a trial by jury. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the trial, as the state limited indoor gatherings.

Recently, a judge threw out Nabers' motion to dismiss the case. The class-action suit will continue to move through the court. The trial date is forthcoming.

3000-Patient Class-Action Suit Advances

In 2018, the New Jersey Department of Health investigated the HealthPlus Surgery Center. Investigators found HealthPlus put over 3000 patients at risk of bloodborne pathogen infection.

Malpractice Suit vs OSHA Violation

Lawsuits over medical malpractice and negligence differ from OSHA penalties. OSHA protects employees. Different state and federal laws protect patients.

A patient can legally file a lawsuit against a healthcare organization. They may file over negligence and malpractice.

Courts may use OSHA standards and regulations to determine negligence. This is true even when negligence harms a patient rather than an employee.

However, when an employer violates a worker's rights, the worker must file a claim with OSHA. OSHA can then investigate, impose penalties, and press criminal charges against employers.

Workers can sue an employer in specific circumstances. These relate to harassment, injury, and wrongful death.

Bloodborne Pathogen Risk Negligence

HealthPlus staff neglected to follow infection control and sterilization mandates. This lapse led staff to use unclean and potentially hazardous needles and surgical tools when tending to patients.

The surgical center exposed thousands of patients to bloodborne viruses. Some patients contracted HBV.

Individuals initially filed suit against HealthPlus in 2019. In January 2020, New Jersey courts granted prosecutors the right to mass tort litigation. The State Superior Courts assigned the action to a Judge in Bergen County, in order to coordinate.

The court date is forthcoming.

OSHA Penalizes Reporting Mandate Violations

In the past month, OSHA fined two Texas businesses for violating reporting mandates. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires employers to alert employees to hazards.

This includes exposure incidents. Employers must report incidents in a timely manner.

Employers must record and evaluate exposure incidents. Records and evaluations must be in line with the employer's Exposure Control Plan. The Exposure Control Plan, in turn, must fall within the boundaries of OSHA's standards.

OSHA clarified how these mandates apply to Covid-19 reporting. This includes reporting and recording SARS-CoV-2 exposure, infections, and deaths.

In June, OSHA fined the Luling Care Center $11,567. The center failed to record an exposure incident. it also neglected to report an employee's death within eight hours.

The administration also fined Altman's Specialty Plants $1,928. The Austin, Texas nursery violated recording mandates for incidents of pathogen exposure.

What is Bloodborne Pathogens Training?

Bloodborne pathogens training is a lesson on BBP Standards, regulations, and pathogen safety. It typically lasts one to eight hours.

OSHA mandates employers covered by the BBP Standard hold this training annually. The benefits of bloodborne pathogens training are clear:

  • fewer exposure incidents
  • fewer lawsuits
  • fewer dangerous infections

Healthcare professionals can teach Bloodborne Pathogens Training, but they don't have to. OSHA only requires the trainer to be "knowledgeable in the subject" of the BBP Standard. The trainer needs to be able to answer questions after the training session.

OSHA's BBP Training Materials

OSHA has published free BBP training materials. Based on these materials, an employer creates or re-evaluates its Exposure Control Plan each year.

The agency also authorizes many organizations to deliver BBP training. OSHA authorizes through its OSHA Training Institute Education Centers (OTIEC).

That said, an employer can select any trainer who is knowledgeable in the subject. The trainer must give employees access to the primary text of OSHA regulations. Trainers don't have to be officially authorized by OSHA in order to teach BBP Standards.

OSHA Increases Inspection Frequency

In March 2021, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP). These programs prioritize OSHA's resources to maximize risk mitigation. Currently, OSHA is focusing resources on mitigating the risk of Covid-19.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly hazardous. As such, OSHA is increasing how often it inspects and evaluates organizations where Covid-19 poses a significant risk.

The administration will focus on:

  • nursing homes
  • hospitals
  • other medical or dental practices

But, a surprise inspection won't cause a problem for your organization. If you're up-to-date on your training, you'll pass. If a medical office can learn and implement best practices, it will easily meet OSHA's standards.

What is Bloodborne Pathogens Certification?

OSHA does not grant Bloodborne Pathogens certifications or credentials. Instead, Bloodborne Pathogens Certification is a credential workplaces earn by < rel="nofollow"a href="https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2008-01-17">passing BBP training.

Professional BBP Trainers certify employers once employees pass the exam at the end of the training. Employees must demonstrate knowledge and practical competency to earn BBP certification. They must understand how to mitigate the risk of infection with OSHA-compliant practices.

Bloodborne Pathogens Certification shows patients your organization takes disease risk seriously. Certification can build trust in your practice.

Train With The Experts

Bloodborne Pathogens training is mandatory under OSHA. But, not all training is equally effective.

Your employees have a lot to keep track of. That's why it's important that your bloodborne pathogen training seminar engages your staff.

Lessons should cover all standards and procedures. Yet, the best training stays urgently relevant. Interactive sessions bring the material home for each employee.

Expert trainers stay on top of OSHA's revisions and updates while making them sensible to you. How can we tailor our Bloodborne Pathogens Training to the needs of your workplace? Check out HIPAA Bloodborne Pathogens Training today.


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