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Guard against safety issues when sharing space with another practice
If you're sharing space with another facility, make sure you ensure everyone's safety.
Given the economy, it's not surprising that veterinary practices are experimenting with shared resources and floor space. But whether a practitioner receives "privileges" to use a central facility or rents space at an established hospital, all practices involved need to follow specific safety rules.
Veterinary hospitals are required to document hazards in their facilities and share that information with associated business entities. For instance, a dermatology referral practice renting space in a general practice must analyze hazards to its team from its own practice as well as hazards from the general practice, and vice versa. Many hospitals establish a facility-wide safety program in the lease that all entities must follow.
If repairs or modifications are necessary for safety (such as exit signs or ventilation modifications), generally the entity with renovation authority is expected to pay for those repairs. If the tenant is responsible in the lease for leasehold improvements, the tenant is expected to pay. If the tenant needs approval from the owner for improvements, then the owner is likely responsible.
When a hospital uses independent contractors or "leased employees," OSHA usually expects the hospital to act as the employer in regard to safety matters, including the training of workers. The hospital must inform these contractors (such as relief veterinarians and contract groomers) of hazardous materials or situations they're likely to encounter. Contractors are required to do the same for chemicals they bring into the workplace.
Although these contractors may technically be self-employed, OSHA expects them to be as trained as any other worker. In most cases, this means that the permanent contractor must undergo the same training program as regular employees. In addition, if the practice exercises any control over the quality, quantity, or nature of the contractor's work, OSHA expects the practice to also exercise control over the safety of the contractor, such as using appropriate personal protective equipment.
The bottom line? Everyone in a facility is responsible for pointing out safety problems. Now you need to find out whose job it is to fix those problems. And remember: Safety training is for everyone—full-time, part-time, or temporary worker.
Phil Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.