OSHA Regulations for Med Spas: What You Need to Know
If you are a medspa owner or aesthetician, compliance with OSHA regulations should be at the forefront of your mind. Med spas and medical aesthetic facilities are considered health care entities under the law. They are therefore subject to the health care requirements of OSHA.
Problematically, however, many med spa owners are not aware that specific OSHA standards apply to them. If OSHA regulations are not followed, a med spa owner may be penalized with significant fines, see their spa shut down, or in an extreme case, be charged with a felony. A recent undercover crackdown on unlawful practice has seen medspa owners and cosmetologists arrested.
What is OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. It operates under the mission statement to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women. OSHA protects workers in the U.S. from suffering injury or illness due to improper training or hazardous workplace conditions.
OSHA and the recent crackdown on med spas
According to Alex Thiersch, founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AMSPA), the med spa industry has surged in growth in recent years with clinics proliferating throughout the United States. The popularity and profitability of med spas have seen operators rush to open before ensuring their facilities and staff are properly compliant with state and local statutes.
Thiersch reports that in the 2017 AMSPA Medical Spa State of the Industry Study, only 7% of respondents identified that they had been investigated by a government agency. A low level of enforcement has allowed some violations to occur, but this is set to change. Expect to see OSHA focusing on this burgeoning industry to ensure rogue operators are pulled into line, and safety and hygiene standards that protect both patients and practitioners are being met.
It is better for owners and practitioners to be ahead of the curve by familiarizing themselves with the relevant standards, and undergoing necessary training programs. Ignorance is no excuse for non-compliance. OSHA standards must be observed to ensure the med spa industry continues to grow, and delivers top-quality treatments to clients,.
OSHA standards for medspas
Med spa owners and operators must comply with seven particular OSHA standards:
- Bloodborne pathogens and exposure control plan
- Hazard communication
- Record-keeping of incidents
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Workplace violence
- Laser safety
The specific requirements for each standard are laid out on the OSHA website. Numbers 1 and 7 are critical standards for med spas and merit further discussion.
Bloodborne pathogens and exposure control plan
In med spas, where living tissue is manipulated and sharps are commonly used, the bloodborne pathogens standard endeavors to safeguard workers against health hazards. The standard requires that:
The employer or medical facility owner evaluates the likelihood of contact with blood or other potentially infectious material(OPIM) among his or her employees.
- The employer adopts the ‘Universal Precaution’ standard which means all clients should be treated as if they are infectious for HIV, HBV or other bloodborne pathogens.
- Control plans are developed to minimize worker exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
- Personal protective equipment (such as gloves and gowns), appropriate training and vaccinations are provided for staff.
- Records are kept of any incidents (such as needlestick injuries).
- The facility is up-to-date with the latest sharps disposal protocols.
- Medical waste, such as contaminated sharps, are disposed of appropriately.
Proper disposal of medical waste is where many clinics may fall short of meeting the standard. Poor management of medical waste can expose healthcare workers, waste handlers and patients to infection, toxic effects, or injury. Any item that contains infectious bodily liquids and liquid or semi-liquid blood are defined as red bag waste. They must be disposed of in red plastic bags that are leak and tear-resistant, and labeled “BIOHAZARDOUS.”
Needles used for Botox or dermal fillers must be disposed of into sharps boxes immediately after use, and boxes must be placed at eye level and within arm’s reach. Boxes must be rigid, puncture-proof, and sealable. Sharps containers and red bag waste bags must be purchased from approved supply companies such as Red Bags.
Medical spa lasers are held to the same standards as hospitals and surgery centers. Most cosmetic lasers fall into class 3B and class 4: they possess the potential to damage vision or burn the skin. Consequently, med spas must research and develop their own training and safety protocols to protect staff while using hazardous lasers. These programs should be informed by the laser safety protocols advised by the American National Standards Institute, available for purchase from the Laser Institute of America.
Med spas must adhere not only to federal standards, but also be compliant with state laser safety laws, and state medical board rulings.
Laser safety programs developed by med spas should include the following elements:
Reference material that can be easily accessed (this includes state and federal rules and guidelines, operational manuals for devices owned by the clinic)
- Annual staff laser safety training
- Equipment registration
- Development and implementation of laser safety policies
- Development and implementation of laser operational protocols
- Development, implementation, and documentation of laser maintenance programs
- Development, implementation, and documentation of internal laser safety auditing process
- Development, implementation and documentation of quality assurance
- Development and implementation of operator or clinician requirements of licensure and training, based on best practice or state requirements.
As is evident, laser safety falls squarely on the shoulders of the med spa owner or operator. The owner or operator must manage research and program development. Professional laser safety program services can offer efficient development tools and strategies for those who are unsure of where to start. Be proactive in adopting conscientious laser safety protocols before an external audit occurs, or an incident is reported.
Financial penalties for non-observance
Non-compliance with OSHA can devastate a med-spa business. If a clinic is found to be non-compliant, financial penalties are common.
- Penalties can range between $1,500 and $7,500 per violation.
- Repeat violations can cost $75,000.
- Insurance will not pay for penalties resulting from non-compliance.
OSHA training programs and compliance tips for med spas
To move towards achieving OSHA compliance, there are three key steps you can take.
Be familiar with your state’s practice acts, particularly regarding laser use.
- Request evaluation from local health care attorneys. It’s better to identify issues of compliance and address them before you are investigated by OSHA.
- Stay abreast of developments in law, protocol and regulations regarding medspas. The American Med Spa Association (AMSPA) is a wealth of knowledge.
Let FACE help you become compliant
FACE Training Center offers invaluable guidance into opening and operating a legally compliant med spa. Register your interest in our Medical Spa Bootcamp and Botox/Fillers combined course here.