The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) strives to “assure safe and healthy working conditions” for workers, and mandates that employers provide a safe work environment for employees. With an estimated 1.6 million workers at 21,000 health care sites across the country, there are many health and safety hazards that employers should be aware of.

OSHA has developed standards for each individual department — housekeeping being no exception. Called e-Tools, OSHA has designated an entire site to educating health care cleaning professionals of the hazards in their profession.

Contaminated Work Areas
OSHA requires clean and sanitary work environments to prevent worker contact with blood and other potential infectious materials (OPIM).

To do so, employers must determine and implement an appropriate written schedule for cleaning and methods of decontamination. The schedule must be based on the workers location within the facility, type of surface being cleaned, type of soil present and other tasks and procedures being performed in the area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hepatitis B can survive for at least one week in dried blood. Statistics like this are why OSHA requires health care facilities to use approved disinfectants that are determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The most recent list of registered anti-microbials can be obtained by the Office of Pesticide Programs.

Contaminated Equipment
It is very common for blood or OPIM to adhere to cleaning equipment. As a result, OSHA requires all equipment and working surfaces to be cleaned regularly.

According to regulations, all bins, pails, cans and similar receptacles intended for reuse, and have a reasonable likelihood for becoming contaminated with blood or OPIM, must be inspected and decontaminated on a regular basis. They must also be cleaned immediately, or as soon as feasible, upon visible contamination.

Hazardous Chemicals
Employers should implement a written program that meets the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard. This program would provide worker training, warning labels and access to material safety data sheets on all chemicals used within the facility.

Workers should also have access to appropriate personal protective equipment — such as gloves, goggles and splash aprons — for use when working with these chemicals.

Sharps Disposal
Disposal and handling of sharps are one of the leading hazards in health care facilities. To prevent exposure, employers must supply closable, puncture-resistant, leak-proof containers for used sharps.

Slips, Trips and Falls
Wet floors — whether caused by spills or cleaning — are the leading cause of slips, trips and falls in a facility. To reduce the chance of accidents, health care workers should clean floors regularly, providing warning signs in wet areas. Good practices also include cleaning one side of a hall at a time and providing good lighting.

To review OSHA’s housekeeping regulations in health care facilities, as well as possible solutions and recommendations, visit