It’s Your Call February 2018

OSHA: Employees have complained about headaches and breathing problems when they work in a specific part of our building. What should I do?

Foremost, the complaints should not be ignored. If employees have similar symptoms that appear to resolve after leaving the building or specific work area, then contact a vendor to test indoor air quality (IAQ). Symptoms of poor IAQ include: fatigue, dizziness, headaches, sinus congestion, shortness of breath, and irritation of eyes, nose, throat, & skin. Possible causes include mold, asbestos, dust, and problems with the HVAC.

Under the OSHA General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious harm.” Employers are responsible for informing employees of the immediate hazards and complying with specific state and local regulations about indoor air quality.

HIPAA: Does your office use a wall mounted file holder outside exam rooms to hold patient paperwork? Is this allowed with the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

Yes, the Privacy Rule will permit this. Although incidental disclosures could occur as others walk by, this is permitted as long as reasonable safeguards are taken to meet the minimum necessary requirements. Examples of appropriate measures to safeguard patient charts include monitoring the area and limiting access, escorting non-employees in the area, and facing charts toward the wall instead of outward facing.