September 04, 2007 | | Comments 0
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A safety committee topic we can all toast to

How well does your safety committee manage “telling people what to do”?

In reviewing safety committee minutes in all different parts of the country, I’ve run into a certain reluctance to mandate compliance with sensible safety practices. The most common issue I’ve encountered is the management of heat-producing appliances in various departments. Yes, I am talking about toaster ovens, household-use toasters, household-use coffee makers and other appliances of that ilk.

I personally think that toaster ovens are among the most risky pieces of common-use equipment I can imagine. You can put something in it, set the temperature, and walk away from it – with the common refrain being, “What’s that smell? Oh, $@?&!!”

When I encounter these appliances during mock surveys, I ask what folks what they’ve done to manage the risks associated with these devices, and the response is frequently a shrug.

Now I don’t advocate an obstreperous approach to enforcement activities, but it is certainly a weapon to have in your arsenal (sort of along the lines of nuclear proliferation – we don’t want to have to go there, but if you insist, we will).

Sometimes corrective measures are perceived as being optional, even when there is a clear advantage to adopting those measures as a standard of practice. But – and I quote one of my former boss’ favorite sayings – you can’t mandate intelligence and in those instances, you sometimes have to mandate a practical application.

I know we didn’t get into this field to boss people around. But sometimes there’s very little standing between disaster and any number of folks working for us. Sometimes you have to risk being a wee bit prickly in order to keep your safety roses in bloom. And that’s enough mixing of metaphors for this session.

So, until next time, this Safety Mac Daddy is signing off…

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Filed Under: Life Safety Code

Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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