OSHA Requirements for Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities serve disabled and elderly persons who do not need around-the-clock medical care, but cannot safely live on their own. The services provided by assisted living facilities, such as on-site nursing care, vary depending on the state laws where the facilities are located and the types of services a particular facility is able to provide. Regardless of these variations, all assisted living facilities must comply with certain requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to abate workplace hazards and protect the safety of healthcare workers.
OSHA requires all employers to comply with its standards, which are divided into four major industry classifications: construction, maritime, agriculture and general industry. As applied to an assisted living facility, the OSHA general industry standards are the most relevant. For example, industry standard 1910.22 requires that all walking and working surfaces be kept orderly, clean and sanitary, and specifically identifies "passageways, storerooms, and service rooms." Standard 1910.38 requires all employers to develop an emergency action plan that must include procedures for reporting emergencies, such as fires, an facility evacuation plan and a means for accounting for employees. If your assisted living facility has more than 10 employees, the emergency plan must be in writing.
OSHA regulations cover potential workplace hazards that are common to assisted living facilities, such as issues with food preparation. If your facility prepares meals for residents, the kitchen work area must adhere to standard 1910.138, which requires providing personal protection equipment for employees. Such equipment can include oven mitts to prevent burns and mesh gloves to prevent cuts while using carving knives. All food preparation activities must comply with standard 1910.141, which requires the use of sound hygienic principles. The food provided to the facilities' residents must be wholesome and free from contamination and spoilage.
If your facility provides any on-site nursing services, OSHA standards related to medical activities may apply to your facility. Standard 1910.1030 requires that employees be protected from bloodborne pathogens whenever it is reasonably anticipated the employee's duties may result in contact with "skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials." A written exposure control plan must be developed for your facility that includes, among other things, a list of all occupations at the facility for which there is exposure and the workplace practices used to prevent exposure. Handwashing facilities must be readily available for employees.
OSHA is aware of the challenge that a small business faces in determining what regulations apply, as well as how to implement and comply with the requirements. An employer with only one assisted living facility may not need or be able to afford to hire experts in OSHA regulations to develop a comprehensive OSHA-compliant health and safety program. OSHA addresses this issue by providing a free on-site consultation program for small businesses. This program is not part of OSHA's inspection and enforcement activity and cannot result in any citations or penalties.