Friday, November 28, 2003

A drop of lemonade in a truckload of lemons

Bill Borwegen of SEIU reports that something good came out of the otherwise disappointing Medicare/Prescription Drug bill -- coverage under the bloodborne pathogens standard for public employees not covered by OSHA -- an issue that AFSCME and SEIU have been championing for years.
Tucked into the massive Medicare giveaway bill is a provision that would require public hospitals not currently covered by the OSH Act (about half of all the states; those without federally approved state plan OSHA programs) to meet the agency's bloodborne pathogen standard -- including the safer needle provisions -- by July 1, 2004, or face civil monetary penalties mirroring those under the OSHAct.

This requirement would be in addition to any state safer needle laws in these non-state plan states. For hospital workers in about a dozen states (AL, AR, CO, FL, ID, IL, LA, MS, MT, ND, NE, SD & WI), this will be the first time that they are covered by these types of protections.

Section 947 on pages 627-629 states that: "In the case of hospitals that are not otherwise subject to the OSHAct, to comply with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard under section 1910.1030 . . .A hospital that fails to comply . . is subject to a civil money penalty . . [in] an amount similar to the amount of civil penalties that may be imposed under the OSHAct for a violation of the Bloodborne Pathogens standard.

. . The amendments made by this section shall apply to hospitals as of July 1, 2004."