On the morning of October 20, 2015, Chelsea Ake-Salvacion was found dead inside a cryotherapy machine at Rejuvenice Cryotherapy, the medspa she managed in Henderson, Nevada. She had attempted to self-administer cryotherapy after the rest of her employees had gone home for the day. It was ruled that her death resulted from operator error. However, just because Ake-Salvacion was found to have been responsible for her own demise does not mean there won’t be consequences.
“There’s no question, based on the reports that have been coming out, that there seems to have been minimal training or consideration of safety to prevent people from stepping into this cryotherapy center in the way that she did—after operating hours with nobody there to watch her or to address potential of loss of consciousness,” says Harry Nelson, co-founder and managing partner of Nelson Hardiman, a California-based healthcare law firm. “That’s a classic problem—not considering the safety risk, not putting policies and procedures in place or not putting training into place to ensure that any hazard is addressed.”
Medspa owners and operators are responsible for the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. They must provide the proper training, procedures and supervision to allow employees to perform their duties without being exposed to any risk of harm.
To make sure that such conditions are met throughout the workforce-at-large, the U.S. government established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and compliance with its rules and regulations is mandatory. As with many types of oversight, however, compliance with OSHA standards is a bit trickier for medical spa owners and operators than it would typically be for those who run other types of beauty businesses, due to the inclusion of medical procedures.
Getting to Know OSHA
OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. It was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and its mission is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.” OSHA is responsible for ensuring the safety of most private-sector workers in the U.S. Employers are required by law to display a poster informing workers of the protections offered by OSHA in a place where their employees can easily see it, such as a break room.
As one would expect, medspa employees are covered by OSHA, but what owners and operators might not understand is the extent to which their employees must be protected. Because medspas are retail outlets and tend to resemble businesses, such as salons and tradition-al spas in form and function, it can be easy to overlook the fact that they are medical facilities and must be governed with the same attention to worker safety as a hospital or doctor’s office.
“Medical spa owners have the obligation to provide a workplace that is free from the risk of injury or illness to their employees,” says Steve Wilder, president of Sorensen, Wilder & Associates, a safety and security risk management consulting group specializing in health care. “The thing that makes it hard sometimes is that these OSHA standards are not written specifically for health care. The same OSHA standard that talks about hazard communications would be applied to a healthcare environment in the same way it’s applied to a manufacturing facility. So it is now up to the business owner to interpret the standards and apply them to his or her operation.”
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