Scenario: You have been hired as the Human Resource Manager for a company that supplies contract employees to healthcare facilities. In this position, you also have responsibility for employee safety. You start investigating what your employer has done previously for employees with regard to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. To your surprise, you learn that your employer has relied on its clients to maintain the program as well as to train your employees. You feel this practice is in error and you approach your boss about this issue. He is less than enthusiastic about the idea that your organization needs to have a Bloodborne Pathogens Program (BBP) and tells you they have always relied on their client for this and that he has no desire to move forward with program implementation.
Question: Does your organization need to have a BBP complete with training or can you rely on your clients fulfilling the requirements of the Standard?
Answer: In OSHA’s Most Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, Question #5 states: “My company supplies contract employees to healthcare facilities. What are my responsibilities under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard?
Answer #5. OSHA considers personnel providers, who send their own employees to work at other facilities, to be employers whose employees may be exposed to hazards. Because your company maintains a continuing relationship with its employees, but another employer (your client) creates and controls the hazard, there is a shared responsibility for assuring that your employees are protected from workplace hazards. The client employer has the primary responsibility for such protection, but the “lessor employer” likewise has a responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In the context of OSHA’s standard on Bloodborne Pathogens, 29 CFR 1910.1030, your company would be required, for example, to provide the general training outlined in the standard; ensure that employees are provided with the required vaccinations; and provide proper follow-up evaluations following an exposure incident. Your clients would be responsible, for example, for providing site-specific training and personal protective equipment, and would have the primary responsibility regarding the control of potential exposure conditions. The client, of course, may specify what qualifications are required for supplied personnel, including vaccination status. It is certainly in the interest of the lessor employer to ensure that all steps required under the standard have been taken by the client employer to ensure a safe and healthful workplace for the leased employees. Toward that end, your contracts with your clients should clearly describe the responsibilities of both parties in order to ensure that all requirements of the standard are met.”
As you can see, OSHA puts shared responsibility on both parties to assure employees are properly covered and educated. It will be necessary for your employer to provide initial training and have an effective program in place. It is also imperative that both parties work together to assure employees are properly trained and protected under the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.