Risk Management — OSHA: Baseline Compliance for Camps

Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations that pertain to employee safety and health on the job. Occasionally, the popular press contains news of a business slapped with an OSHA fine, most typically for infraction of some rule, but rarely does someone address the application of OSHA to our camp world. This article is intended to address that need with a focus on the “common ground” OSHA elements shared by all camps.

How Do Camps Fit into OSHA?

Camps typically come under OSHA’s “general industry” standards. The other areas pertain to construction and manufacturing, areas typically not the backbone of camp work. So when you access OSHA information, available online at www.OSHA.gov, be sure accessed content is appropriate to general industry standards.

In addition, note that OSHA regulations are national in scope, but their interpretation and many interpretive guidelines come from the state in which the business entity (camp) is located. For this reason, it’s important that you not only know what a regulation may direct, but also how your state interprets that regulation. For example, OSHA regulations direct that the OSHA Form 300 be at the location of the business entity. Some states may direct that this log, a summary of worker injury-illness reports, be physically at a specific camp while other states might allow the log to be at the camp’s primary office.

This introduces a couple other aspects of OSHA. The act falls under the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). As such, the DOL has OSHA offices in each state. One arm of that state office is consultative; one can call with questions and speak with an individual who will answer questions. The other arm is enforcement; this is the aspect that responds to employee complaints and carries out tasks such as OSHA inspections. These two branches do not inform one another; a person who calls the consulting division with a question will not trigger a directive to the enforcement division.

Which OSHA Standards Impact All Camps?

Keeping in mind that OSHA regulations are germane to employees (not clients/ campers), all camps should attend to OSHA standards pertaining to worker injury-illness on the job (e.g., workers’ compensation), the Hazardous Communication Standard (Haz-Com or Right-to-Know), the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, and aspects associated with an OSHA inspection.

Camp professionals tend to be well aware of the requirements of reporting employee injuries and/or illnesses that occur on the job. Often managed through one’s worker compensation carrier, these injury-illness events are reported to the state via a form called the First Report of Injury. Injuries or illnesses that are handled via first aid gener¬ally are not reported on this form. States publish interpretive guidelines that help one determine what constitutes “first aid,” an important distinction when a given camp may have an RN and/or MD at camp that sees injured/ill employees.

That being said, a common problem is that camp directors neglect to inform their health center staff as to when an employee’s injury-illness event meets the criteria necessary for a First Report of Injury to be completed. Whether a health center staff member or the camp director is responsible for completing and submitting this form, it’s important that care providers know when a given event meets the reporting threshold. And, yes, the number of submitted First Report of Injury forms does affect an entity’s “modification rating.” This, in turn, influences what the entity pays to obtain workers’ compensation insurance and is well worth monitoring by the camp’s administration. From a risk-reduction perspective, having all employees understand the cycle associated with on-the-job injury and illness goes a long way to reducing these incidents.

One of the most often neglected components of worker injury in the camp setting is the OSHA Form 300. This one-page document is available online both as an Excel file and a PDF (go to www.OSHA.gov and enter “OSHA Form 300” or “OSHA 300 Log” into the site’s search line). The log summarizes submitted First Report of Injury claims for each year. Completed logs should be retained for five years following the end of the year to which the log pertains. In addition, a completed summary of the 300 log, a different form, should be posted from February 1st until April 30th for employees to review. The log and its summary form are available as a PDF at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/new-osha300form1-1-04.pdf. And, yes, posted summaries from February through April are an interesting challenge when camp employees are only seasonal. That’s a great question to bring to the state’s consultative OSHA division.

Our camp community enjoyed robust discussions about the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard when concerns about HIV and blood exposure first surfaced. There isn’t much discussion about this topic now. Perhaps there should be? This standard directs that a business (camp):

A. Determine what jobs incur risk of exposure to blood and body fluids;
B. Define how management of personnel or work practices can limit that exposure;
C. Establish workplace controls such as education and providing personal protective equipment (PPE);
D. Define the protocol when an exposure incident occurs;
E. Develop record-keeping practices specific to this standard;
F. Prepare and update the entity’s written plan;
G. Provide employee education as directed by the standard; and
H. Consult the state’s OSHA division about compliance concerns.

Many camps have usual and routine practices regarding exposure incidents (when someone’s blood comes in contact with the unprotected skin or mucous membranes of an employee). For example, gloves are commonly found in camp first-aid kits, and staff are expected to use them (right?). We’ve become acclimated to safe behaviors surrounding exposure to the body fluids of others. While great in theory, this OSHA standard still directs that a camp have a written bloodborne pathogens plan and that the camp provide employee training specific to the elements listed in the standard. Now may be a great time for camp professionals to review their standard operating practices to make sure the camp remains in compliance with the standard. Failure to have this written plan is one of the most common reasons to fine a business.

Another pertinent OSHA standard is the Hazardous Communication Standard (Haz-Com or Right-to-Know). Like the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, this one also includes a written plan. The regula¬tion directs that employees be informed about chemicals used in the context of doing their job, instructed in using PPE, familiar with needed first aid should exposure occur, and skilled in reading and/ or referencing material safety data sheets (MSDSs). The chemicals that fall under this standard are those with industry application and household chemicals that are used in greater frequency and/or amount than used by the typical house¬hold. This explains why a product such as toilet bowl cleaner — used to clean several camp toilets — is included, but that same chemical, when used in someone’s home with one or two toilets, falls outside the standard. The standard directs that employers collect, organize, and make MSDSs available to employees, that employees are taught how to read both MSDSs and product warning labels, and that employee compliance is monitored. Like other OSHA information, Haz-Com information is available at OSHA’s Web site (www.OSHA.gov).

An OSHA Inspection?

The most common reason for OSHA to do an inspection within general indus¬tries is because a worker (employee) reports an infraction. Employees have the right to contact OSHA (through the state’s Department of Labor) when a rule infraction is suspected. A phone call may be all it takes. While an employee complaint is the most common reason, OSHA inspections can also be triggered by a worker fatality or serious injury. This means that most camp professionals should have an inkling that such an inspection may occur; one is aware of disgruntled and/or seriously injured employees.

The key to a successful inspection is preparation. When the inspector arrives — unannounced — he or she will present identifying credentials and begin with an opening conference. Have a team ready for this conference, specifically the camp director/administrator, someone who will take notes during the inspection, and a person who can be directed to get needed items. Also have materials this team might need, such as a camera (capable of low-light shots), a tape measure, video camera, and clipboard with paper. Finally, automatically bring documents the OSHA team will ask to see. These are typically the 300 log and the written Haz-Com and bloodborne pathogens programs. The reason and scope of the inspection will be disclosed at the opening conference.

A walk around follows the opening conference. This is when the OSHA representative will look at selected areas, potentially talk with employees, and will gather data needed to make a determination as to the reason for the inspection. The time allocated to the walk around ranges from very brief to quite long.

A closing conference concludes the on-site inspection. The camp’s management will be advised of alleged violations and/or citations, and an abatement date will be set — unless one contests a violation(s). Should a citation(s) be issued, a written copy will eventually arrive via certified mail. Note the date it is received. OSHA directs that citations be posted for three days “near the place where the violation occurred” or until the hazard is corrected. If one believes the citation is unfounded, one can contest by filing a Notice of Contest within fifteen days of receiving the mail-certified citation. An informal conference will typically be arranged with OSHA to discuss the merits of such an appeal. Should merit exist, a hearing date will be set. Most states direct that such arbitration, should it be needed, will be binding.

Learning more about a given state’s OSHA inspection process is critical. Perhaps this is the kind of thing that camp professionals can request as a group. Meeting with OSHA may help everyone learn the nuances of the state’s process, obtain clarification about interpretation of specific standards, and obtain consultative knowledge from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

Where to Go from Here?

This article provides a broad overview of some OSHA components and their application to our camp community. Readers are encouraged to seek further information through their state’s Department of Labor, specifically the state in which the camp is located, and to make use of OSHA’s consultative division. Failure to know about an OSHA directive isn’t an adequate defense. Employers are expected to know about these things. Make sure your camp has updated and revitalized OSHA programs.

Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN, is the associate director of Health & Risk Management for Concordia Language Villages and executive director of the Association of Camp Nurses in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Originally published in the 2013 November/December Camping Magazine

 

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