In 2019, there was an average of 65,600 senior care facilities in the U.S., according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. These facilities serve over 8.3 million residents. If current trends continue, that number is expected to double by the year 2030, due to the aging population.
With this growth in senior care facilities and an increase in new staffing, the risk of safety-related issues at facilities also increases. Currently, there are four main areas of concern when it comes to maintaining a safe facility, says David A. Casavant, program director, at The Sustainable Workplace Alliance.
These four main areas of safety concern in senior care facilities currently are:
- Respiratory protection issues;
- COVID-19 written plan requirements;
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping issues;
- Bloodborne pathogen issues.
Of these four, respiratory protection, COVID-19 plans, and bloodborne pathogen issues are “potentially dangerous to employees and therefore a focus of OSHA’s inspections,” Casavant says. “Another issue is the frequency of these categories of hazards. OSHA inspections continue to find these issues when they conduct their inspections.”
Recordkeeping issues are targeted by OSHA, for two reasons. The first is that posting records satisfies employees’ “right to know” about workplace injuries and illnesses.
“If an employer does not share this data, it keeps employees in the dark,” Casavant says.
Also, by gathering this data and retaining it for three years, employees can recognize trends in the types and frequency of workplace injuries and illnesses. This may enable them to take proactive steps to fix these issues, Casavant says.
In addition to these four main areas of concern, electrical hazards, lockout/tagout, asbestos awareness, and hazard communication are also essential issues to be addressed, Casavant says. A list of OSHA’s “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards” is updated annually across industries. Currently, the respiratory protection issues that Casavant noted are second on the list.
Be proactive with safety
How can senior care facilities be proactive in maintaining a healthy, safe environment for both residents and staff?
“The most impactful thing a facility manager can do is educate themselves on basic OSHA requirements, specifically for their chosen profession,” Casavant says. “Once the facility manager is aware of the hazards, working with HR to develop written plans, training and inspections go a long way to ensure compliance and more importantly, a safe workplace.”
Baby Boomers continue to age. The need for more senior care facilities continues to grow. And the need for safe, secure senior care facilities is greater than at any point in the country’s history. Focusing on OSHA’s requirements will not only keep senior care facilities compliant but toward keeping seniors safer too.
The Sustainable Workplace Alliance is a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental, health, and safety training for US workplaces, offering courses in areas like OSHA regulations, hazardous waste handling and transportation, risk management, emergency response, and more, free of charge.
Joy Choquette is a Vermont-based freelance writer.