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Scott Wallask

Scott Wallask is senior managing editor for HCPro's Hospital Safety Center ( and the award-winning newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. He has written about healthcare for HCPro since 1998, with a focus on occupational and building safety, emergency management, fire protection, and infection control. Prior to joining HCPro, he worked as a reporter for several newspapers in eastern Massachusetts. He holds a BA in print journalism, magna cum laude, from Northeastern University in Boston. Contact Scott at

Elevator problems cause a scare at a Seattle hospital

Hi everyone –

It’s Scott Wallask checking in here at the Hospital Safety Center.

Those of you who use ISIS model elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp should read this story about a hospital that had an elevator failure in Seattle. Luckily, the elevator’s safety brakes worked and no one was injured.

ISIS models use Kevlar ropes that don’t require a machine room. In a letter available at the link above, ThyssenKrupp has outlined a series of actions it will take across the country in response to the hospital mishap.

EPA issues a ruling on epinephrine salts

Hey everyone, it’s Scott Wallask checking in with an interesting note from the EPA. It appears ephineprine salts are officially off the list of P-listed wastes that the agency regulates.

Click here to read the decision.

Sounds like that’s a welcome announcement.

OSHA isn’t checking for annual TB fit-testing yet

Hi everyone —

It’s Scott Wallask up at HCPro. Just an FYI, an OSHA spokesperson confirmed for me today that the agency has not started inspecting for annual fit-testing for tuberculosis (TB), despite what you might have read elsewhere.

OSHA, like all of us, is awaiting final approval of the funding budget for fiscal year 2008. When that happens, it is almost certain that the annual TB fit-testing enforcement will be in effect.

Since 2004, Congress has prohibited OSHA from using budget funds to enforce annual fit-testing provisions for TB, which falls under the respiratory protection standard. But politics and that fellow who snuck back into the country with TB in May shifted the landscape.

Scott W.

Update on TB fit-testing requirements

Hi everyone –

It’s Scott Wallask over here at the Hospital Safety Center with a quick note.

There’s been a lot of reports swirling around about annual fit-testing requirements for tuberculosis (TB) in hospitals.

In 2004 as part of OSHA’s budget approval, Congress prohibited the agency from using those funds to enforce fit-testing provisions for TB, which falls under the respiratory protection standard. That prohibition has continued for the past several years.

While it seems likely that the fit-testing ban for TB will end with the fiscal year 2008 budget, it is not official quite yet.

FY 08 technically started today, but at this point, the full Congress has not passed various appropriations bills to send the funding along, Dan Glucksman, a spokesperson for the International Safety Equipment Association in Arlington, VA, told to me this afternoon. The American Hospital Association reported about this aspect as well last week.

So, reports that mandatory annual fit-testing for TB begins today may be a bit premature.

I’m waiting to hear back from OSHA about this whole issue. When I do, I’ll let you know.


Scott W.

Joint Commission opens field review for EC revisions

Hi everyone —

It’s Scott Wallask up here at HCPro with a quick a note for you. If you haven’t already seen it, The Joint Commission posted a field review of proposed revisions and renumbering to the EC standards for 2009.

A good thing to read before you look at the actual standards revisions is the link to the “Important chapter information.” You’ll see that the emergency management standards are being proposed for their own chapter in the manual, as is the current EC.5.20 for Life Safety Code compliance (sounds like a LS chapter is coming).

Scott Wallask
Senior Managing Editor

Crocs, OSHA, and you

Hi everyone, it’s Scott Wallask over here at HCPro, filling in for Steve Mac, who’s on the tail end of his vacation.

I figured I’d chime in because I am once again amazed at the publicity that Crocs footwear gets from the hospital industry.

Many of you probably saw an Associated Press news report this week noting that Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh had banned staff members from wearing Crocs. Proponents of the ban told the AP that the holes in Crocs could pose a safety hazard should a dropped syringe “hit the target,” so to speak. Naysayers have different views on that idea.

Regardless, it reminds me of an unofficial OSHA note that made the rounds last year about Crocs.

From OSHA’s informal perspective, Crocs aren’t appropriate in a hospital setting if there is a reasonable expectation that blood or other potentially infectious materials could land on an employee’s feet, the agency said last August is its e-mail forum.

Such exposures are likely to occur in the OR, ER, and labs, for example. The bloodborne pathogens standard requires hospitals to provide appropriate personal protective equipment.

However, OSHA also informally indicated that it’s the hospital’s responsibility to:

  • Ascertain whether there is reasonable likelihood of exposure to blood or other fluids
  • Determine what constitutes appropriate footwear in the absence of exposure to any recognized hazards

In other words, employees could wear Crocs if the hospital determined that they didn’t face exposures on the job to blood and other bodily fluids.

So, the debate rages . . . over shoes.