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California Ebola rules could help avoid injured worker claim

Medical facilities and personnel are no strangers to dealing with health hazards as they care for patients, and numerous policies and procedures are in place to protect them. However, Ebola has presented new challenges. Recently, the California division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration instituted new rules regarding safety procedures, stating that every medical facility in the state needs to institute in an attempt to avoid an Ebola-related injured worker claim.

Under the new regulations, if a patient is suspected of having Ebola, medical staff are required to wear hazardous material suits and respirators when coming into contact with these patients. In addition, isolation rooms have to be available to quarantine these patients. Of course, none of these precautions means anything without comprehensive training for anyone who may come into contact with the virus.

California is the first state to exceed the procedures put in place by the Centers for Disease Control. Further, some of the CDC's regulations regarding the virus were clarified. Nurses in the state applaud the new protections and safety procedures, which could become a model for other states. Fortunately, so far, no cases of Ebola have been found in the state, but it appears that Cal/OSHA wants to be ready just in case.

Medical facilities across the state are working with Cal/OSHA to get up to speed on the new requirements -- not only to avoid an injured worker claim, but also to protect patients. However, it must be made clear to medical staff that they are also required to strictly follow these new guidelines as well. The failure of employees to follow these new regulations could open up a facility to litigation from not only medical personnel who contract the virus, but also patients who may contract Ebola during the time that a member of the medical staff may not realize he or she is infected. If the worst happens and a member of the medical staff contracts Ebola, it will be necessary to review every aspect of that person's contact with the infected patient to determine whether safety procedures were strictly followed.

Source: sfgate.com, "California adopts tough Ebola-protection rules for health workers", Carolyn Jones, Nov. 15, 2014

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