OSHA Fines Increase January 2024 - How Does This Affect Your Funeral Home?
As of January 16, 2024 OSHA has increased their fines, which means your funeral home is at a higher risk of facing pricey financial penalties.
1. Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030):
One of the primary concerns in the funeral home industry is the potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard mandates precautions to protect workers from diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C that can be transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Funeral home employees who may come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials must receive training on how to handle them safely. Employers must train their employees on safely handling sharps and preventing needlestick injuries, and provide the Hepatitis B vaccine at no charge to the employee if a needlestick injury occurs. Additionally, employers are required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and face shields, and ensure that proper protocols for handling and disposing of biohazardous materials are followed.
2. Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200):
Funeral homes often use a variety of chemicals for embalming, cleaning, and disinfecting purposes. OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requires employers to maintain a comprehensive chemical safety program that includes labeling of chemical containers, providing safety data sheets (SDS) for hazardous substances, and training employees on the potential hazards associated with the chemicals they work with. This ensures that workers are aware of the risks and know how to handle chemicals safely to prevent accidents and exposure.
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (29 CFR 1910.132):
To mitigate workplace hazards, including those related to infectious materials and chemicals, funeral home employees must have access to appropriate personal protective equipment. This includes gloves, face masks, eye protection, and protective clothing. Employers are responsible for providing PPE to workers free of charge and ensuring that it is used correctly. Regular inspections of PPE, as well as training on its proper use and maintenance, are essential to ensure worker safety.
4. Emergency Action Plan (29 CFR 1910.38):
In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or natural disaster, it's crucial for funeral homes to have an effective emergency action plan in place. OSHA requires employers to develop and implement emergency procedures that include evacuation routes, emergency contact information, and protocols for accounting for all employees. Regular drills and training sessions should be conducted to ensure that workers are prepared to respond appropriately in an emergency situation.
5. Formaldehyde Exposure Control (29 CFR 1910.1048):
Formaldehyde is commonly used in embalming fluids in funeral homes and poses significant health risks, including respiratory irritation, cancer, and adverse reproductive effects. OSHA's Formaldehyde Standard outlines specific requirements for controlling formaldehyde exposure in the workplace. Funeral home employers must implement measures such as ventilation systems, personal protective equipment (PPE), and work practices to minimize formaldehyde exposure levels. Regular monitoring of air quality and formaldehyde levels is essential to ensure compliance and protect workers' health.
6. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134):
In situations where exposure to airborne contaminants, including formaldehyde and other chemicals, cannot be adequately controlled through engineering controls or ventilation, respiratory protection may be necessary. OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard mandates that employers establish a respiratory protection program, which includes selecting appropriate respirators, conducting fit testing, providing medical evaluations for workers, and training employees on the proper use and maintenance of respirators. Funeral home workers who are at risk of respiratory exposure should be provided with respiratory protective equipment to safeguard their health.
7. Safe Lifting Practices:
While formaldehyde exposure control and respiratory protection are crucial aspects of workplace safety in funeral homes, safe lifting practices also merit attention. Funeral home workers frequently handle heavy objects such as caskets and equipment, as well as decedents themselves, which can lead to musculoskeletal injuries if proper lifting techniques are not employed. Employers should provide training on ergonomic lifting techniques, as well as access to lifting aids such as dollies or hoists, to reduce the risk of strains and sprains. While perhaps not as immediately hazardous as chemical exposure, preventing musculoskeletal injuries through safe lifting practices is essential for maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
By adhering to OSHA regulations and implementing appropriate safety measures, funeral homes can minimize workplace hazards and protect the well-being of their workers. Investing in safety not only ensures compliance with legal requirements but also fosters a culture of care and respect within the organization. Remember, these guidelines are not exhaustive, and it's essential for funeral home employers to stay informed about any updates or changes to OSHA regulations that may affect their operations.