Most businesses reject free model program from OSHA

It was 1955 in the summer of a hot Texas drought. My dad had decided to build a stock tank on his farm. There were government programs available that would pay for half of the project. The only rule was that you had to build it their way. He studied both approaches and opted to build the stock tank his way and with his own money. Over 50 years later, that ten acre stock tank is still full of water (and some large Bass), while government tanks built in that era have long since dried up.

What is it that makes free stuff from the government less desirable than stuff you have to purchase from the private sector? At first glance, the free stuff looks great. When you get closer, to the point you can smell it, it starts to lose its appeal.

I sometimes get the feeling that if our government operated a clothing store, it would be located right next to the manufacturer. This saves freight. The products would all be the same color. This lowers production cost. And as a final coupe-de-grace, everything would come in a universal one size fits all. This also lowers the costs and makes everyone equal. But what about some of us wanting to wear cinched versus loose clothing? It would not be a problem since each outfit would be fully adjustable with its own drawstring. That sums us my feelings on bureaucracy.

Virtually every funeral home in the country is required to have written safety programs for employees exposed to blood or formaldehyde. OSHA makes it easy by publishing a sample program that any business can follow. And every year businesses overwhelmingly reject using that free program in favor of purchasing or developing their own. On the surface it does not square, but again, bureaucracy rarely does.

OSHA sets the guidelines and they are the law, but businesses prefer to take the advice of others on how to meet those guidelines. This is because the plan OSHA puts out lacks common sense. It essentially goes back to what my dad concluded about the government helping him build a stock tank in 1955. I just understand his logic more today than I did back then.

If you link to the free model written program provided by OSHA on their Internet site, you can see their mistakes firsthand.

Note the following section regarding a Sharps Injury Log.

Sharps Injury Log

In addition to the 1904 Recordkeeping Requirements, all percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps are also recorded in a Sharps Injury Log. All incidences must include at least:

  • date of the injury
  • type and brand of the device involved (syringe, suture needle)
  • department or work area where the incident occurred
  • explanation of how the incident occurred.

This log is reviewed as part of the annual program evaluation and maintained for at least five years following the end of the calendar year covered. If a copy is requested by anyone, it must have any personal identifiers removed from the report.

What this plan fails to mention is that funeral homes and thousands of other businesses are exempt from this requirement. It is as if OSHA doesn't realize that there are businesses outside of the healthcare sector that are required to develop an exposure control plan. Should OSHA know this? They have to since they are the agency that enforces the law.

Let's skip to a different section on the OSHA website.

Basic requirement

1904.2 (a) (1)

If your business establishment is classified in a specific low hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industry listed in Appendix A to this Subpart B, you do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records unless the government asks you to keep the records under § 1904.41 or § 1904.42. However, all employers must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

And a few sections down. OSHA says this.

1904.2 (b) (1)

Does the partial industry classification exemption apply only to business establishments in the retail, services, finance, insurance or real estate industries (SICs 52-89)? Yes, business establishments classified in agriculture; mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation; communication, electric, gas and sanitary services; or wholesale trade are not eligible for the partial industry classification exemption.

For the record, funeral homes and crematories have the exemption. The code for funeral homes and crematories is 72. The code for the cemetery industry is 65. This is all part of the Standard Industry Code system that is used to establish insurance rates. Any industry that has an SIC number between 52 and 89 is exempt.

If any of those exempt businesses used the OSHA model program, they lost their exemption. They now must file their Needlestick exemptions and hold them for five years. They are now recordable injuries.

When you post a policy in your written program, you own that policy. You can be fined for not following it, even if you had an exemption to it. You lost that exemption by posting the policy. It happens when businesses, including funeral homes, try to cut corners. By doing so, they walk into any number of compliance traps.

They end up with restrictive labeling, restricted monitoring exemptions, with unnecessary respirators and a respirator test policy that leads to fines, and they have post form 300. OSHA Form 300 is another posting that funeral homes are exempt from filing, if only they declare it. Added to that list of extras is the aforementioned Sharps or Needlestick Injury Report.

When will they learn? Fortunately, most funeral homes and businesses have learned. Few of them follow the OSHA model program. They prefer to use one developed by the private sector especially for them or develop their own. They don't all have great programs, but at least they are pointed in the right direction.

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KISS Compliance Network Inc. dba Compliance Plus
Gary Finch is a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Texas. He founded KISS Compliance Network, Inc. in 1991. The company does business as Compliance Plus. They write funeral home safety programs and develop Plug and Play PowerPoint Training CD?s for funeral homes across the country. All of their representatives are dual licensed and have 30 years experience in the funeral industry.
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