Everyone knows that nurses, doctors, and other care providers in medical facilities in California face multiple safety hazards. However, the dangers faced by those responsible for housekeeping and cleaning in such facilities might not receive enough attention. If your job involves medical housekeeping, your employer must inform you of all the hazards of your occupation. Safety training must teach you how to mitigate those hazards.
Blood and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) pose significant threats wherever your housekeeping tasks take you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hepatitis B virus can survive as long as seven days on contaminated equipment, surfaces or wherever dried blood is present.
Sharps, which is a collective name for needles and any other pointed objects used in health care, pose multiple risks. Look out for the following dangerous circumstances:
- Improper discarding of contaminated, used sharps will expose you to OPIM or blood.
- Overfilled disposal containers may cause injuries when you empty or transport them.
- Bedding going to the laundry might contain sharps that someone left there unintentionally.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration require the availability of puncture-resistant, leak-proof, closeable and labeled disposal containers for sharps.
OSHA standards require prompt cleaning and decontamination of all work surfaces and equipment that came into contact with OPIM or blood. Beware of the following hazards:
- Potential risks include contaminated glassware, reusable containers, protective coverings and other equipment.
- Contaminated areas on work surfaces and equipment must have labels to indicate danger areas.
- Clean contaminated areas as soon as possible.
- Avoid handling broken, potentially contaminated glassware by hand. Use mechanical means instead.
Establish an inspection schedule for reusable containers and decontaminate them frequently.
All laundry could potentially pose the following risks:
- Use color-coded bags for laundry to indicate the type of contamination.
- Minimize handling and agitation of laundry bags.
- OSHA recommends the use of melt-away laundry bags to avoid handling of contaminated laundry.
Laundry operations will expose you to sharps, blood and OPIM.
Allergies and Accidents
If you do not wear the necessary personal protective equipment, you could be at risk of the following:
- Soaps, detergents, disinfectants and other substances can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions.
- You could develop an allergy to latex gloves.
- Infection can take hold if you expose broken skin to contamination.
- OSHA expects your employer to provide aprons, goggles and latex-free gloves.
- Slips and trips can happen if floors are not kept clean, dry and free of obstructions and debris.
Accidents contribute to a considerable number of on-the-job injuries.
You can only do so much to protect yourself from harm, and accidents at work can happen in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, California workers’ compensation will always have your back. You can even utilize the skills of an attorney with experience in fighting for the rights of injured workers to help you navigate the complicated benefits claims process. Compensation typically covers medical expenses and lost wages.