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You don’t have to be a weather(person)man to tell: Kicking off survey year 2018!

Your guess is as good as mine…

Just a couple of brief items (relatively—you know how I do go on, but I will try) of interest. I don’t know that there’s a common theme besides an effort to anticipate in which direction the survey winds might blow in 2018:

  •  Previously in this space, I’ve mentioned the work of Matt Freije and his team at HCInfo as they have done yeoman’s (yeoperson’s?) work in the field of water systems management and the “fight” against In response to last year’s letter of intent by CMS to take a more focused look at how hospitals and nursing homes are providing appropriately safe water systems for their patients, Mr. Freije has developed a checklist to help folks evaluate their current situations and has posted the checklist online for comment, suggestions, etc. I’m having a hard time thinking that this might not become something of a hardship for folks arriving late to the party, so if you’ve not yet embraced poking around this subject (and even if you have), you’d do well to check out the checklist.
  •  A couple of inspection items relative to the ongoing rollout of the various and sundry changes wrought by the adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code®, some of which have yet to migrate in detail to the accreditation organization publications (at least the ones that I’ve seen), but have popped up during recent CMS surveys:
    • Make sure you fire alarm circuit breakers are clearly marked in red (check out NFPA 72 10.5.5.2 for the skinny on this).
    • Make sure your ILSM/fire watch policy/process reflects the appropriate AHJs—you need to make sure that you know for sure whether your state department of public health, et al, want to be notified. They do in California, and probably elsewhere.
    • In NFPA 25, chapters 5 and 13 indicate some monthly inspections of gauges, valves for condition, appropriate position (open or closed) and normal pressures—again, they’re not specifically listed in the accreditation manuals yet, but I suspect that they’ll be coming to a survey report near you before too long.
    • A final note for the moment in this category, NFPA 70 (2011 edition) 400.10 indicates that “flexible cords and cables shall be connected to devices and to fittings so that tension is not transmitted to joints of terminals.” Keep an eye on power strips, particularly in your IT and communications closets for those dangling power strips (and some of them aren’t so much dangling as they are pulled across open spaces, etc. I suspect you know what I mean.) I know the folks who manage this stuff think that we are just being pains in the butt, but now you may have a little codified leverage.
  •  In my post a couple of weeks ago, I don’t think I played the personal protective equipment (PPE) card with sufficient gravity; part of folks’ understanding of the hazards of using chemicals is recognizing the importance of actually using appropriate PPE as identified on the product SDS. When you think about it, the emergency eyewash station is not intended to be the first line of defense in the management of exposures to chemical hazards, but rather what happens when there is an emergency exposure. If the use of PPE is hardwired into the process, then the only time they’ll need to use the eyewash equipment is when they do their weekly testing. At that, my friends, is as it should be.

 

Try to run, try to hide: Some random thoughts to open the 2018 Physical Environment campaign

I suspect that I may return to the coming changes to the Life Safety standards and EPs dealing with outpatient occupancy, but I wanted to toss a couple of other thoughts your way to start things off with a lesser potential for headaches derived from over-stimulation of the regulatory madness response.

Some of the funkiest findings that arise during survey are those relating to the euphemistic “non-intact surfaces.” The overarching concerns relate to how effectively non-intact surfaces can be cleaned/disinfected, with the prevailing logic being “not particularly well.” One of the surfaces that will encounter scrutiny during survey is the omnipresent patient mattress and I suspect a recent study by ECRI is only going to increase attentions in this regard because, to be honest, what they found is kind of disturbing. As we’ve discussed in the past, ECRI publishes an annual list of technology challenges, and #3 on the hit list this year involves the risks associated with “mattress ingress,” which roughly translates into blood and body fluids seeping into mattresses with non-intact surfaces. I think part of the dynamic at work is that mattresses are somewhat (and in some instances, very much) more expensive than in the “old days,” which decreases the ability for organizations to have a ready supply of backup mattresses for replacement activities. Of course, you have to have a robust process for identifying mattresses to be replaced and that process generally hinges on the active participation of the folks in Environmental Services. As one might imagine, this can become a costly undertaking if you’ve got a lot of cracked or otherwise damaged mattresses, but if you need some additional information with which to encourage the importance of the process, Health Facilities Management magazine has something that I think you’ll find useful.

Another one of those funky findings that I see bubbling up from time to time are those related to the use (including availability) of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). From a practical standpoint, I know it can be a wicked pain in the butt to get folks to do what they’re supposed to when it comes to PPE use (especially when they are engaged in the inappropriate mixing of chemicals—yow!). While it is too early to tell whether this is going to be helpful or another bludgeon with which regulatory surveyors can bring to bear on safety professionals, the tag team of CDC and NIOSH have come up with a “National Framework for Personal Protective Equipment Conformity Assessment – Infrastructure” to help achieve some level of standardization relative to PPE use. It does (of course!) include the use of processes that very much resemble those of a risk assessment, including identification of risks and hazards and identification of PPE types needed to address those risks and hazards. Part of me is fearful that this is going to be just one more opportunity for field surveyors to muddy the waters even more than they are now (is that even possible? I hope not…). At any rate, this is probably something with which you should be at least passingly familiar; you can find the details, as well as the downloadable document, here.

As you’ve probably noticed over the last little while, these pages tend to focus more on TJC and CMS than most of the accreditation organizations, but I was happy (Pleased? Intrigued? Something else?) to see that the Health Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) had published a summary of its most frequently cited standards/conditions during 2017 in its annual Quality Report. I’ll let you look over the document in its entirety, but some of the EC/EM/LS findings were kind of interesting. In no particular orders, some topics and thoughts:

  • Business continuity: Effective recovery from an emergency/disaster is the result of thoughtful planning. The road to recovery should be clearly charted.
  • Emergency supplies: Apparently there is a move towards maintaining emergency supplies as a separate “entity”; also an inventory is important.
  • Security of supplies: Make sure there are provisions for securing supplies; I suspect this is most applicable during an emergency, particularly an extended-time event.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Don’t forget PPE in your emergency planning activities.
  • Decontamination/Triage/Utilities/Volunteers: Make sure you have a handle on these in your emergency plan.
  • Environment of Care: Eyewash stations, ligature risks, dirty and/or non-intact surfaces, clustering of fire drills, past due inspections of medical equipment, air pressure relationships, open junction boxes, obstructed access to electrical panels, etc., risk assessment stuff, making sure that all care environments are demonstrably included in the program.
  • Life Safety: Improper installation of smoke detectors, exit/no exit signage concerns, fire alarm testing issues (not complete, no device inventory, etc.), egress locking arrangements, unsealed penetrations, rated door/frame issues.

Again, the link above will take you to the report, but there’s really nothing that couldn’t be found anywhere if there are “lapses of concentration” in the process. Right now, healthcare organization physical environments are being surveyed with the “bar” residing at the perfect level. I have encountered any number of very effectively managed facilities in the 16 years I’ve been doing this, but I can count the number of perfect buildings on the finger of no fingers. Perhaps you have one, but if you’ve got people scurrying around the place, I suspect perfection is the goal, but always a distance away…

These are a few of my favorite things: Safety Risk Assessments!

A somewhat mixed bag of news items for you this week: a cornucopia of compelling content, if you will…

The Center for Health Design has published a pretty cool safety risk assessment tool that is available free on its website, although you do have to register (also free). The web page offers an introductory video describing the risk assessment, so you can check it out before you register.

In other news, Maine became the first state to ban flame retardants in upholstered furniture. As I travel the highways and byways of these United States, I see a fair amount of holiday decorations that have been treated with flame retardant sprays of various manufacture as folks try to provide a cheery environment for patients and not run afoul of the safety Grinches (and I use that term with all due respect and affection, having been a Grinch myself once or twice in the past). I don’t know if we’ll be able to say “as Maine goes, so goes the nation,” but this might have some interesting impact on the field-treating of combustible decorations.

As our final note this week, data from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study II suggests that there is an increased risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) among nurses with frequent exposure (at least once a week) to disinfectants in certain tasks (cleaning of surfaces, etc.): https://www.ersnet.org/the-society/news/nurses-regular-use-of-disinfectants-is-associated-with-developing-copd . The study indicates some of the “culprits” as glutaraldehyde, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and quaternary ammonium compounds. The article on the link also indicates that a recent European study of folks working as cleaners also showed an increased risk for COPD (somehow, not a surprising revelation to me). I think the bottom line on this (and perhaps our charge moving forward) is (and the article doesn’t really mention this) ensuring that folks are using appropriate PPE when they are using those types (or any type) of disinfectant products. PPE is always a tough thing to “sell” to folks, and while I think folks do understand that there are risks involved (just as there are risks associated with all sorts of behaviors—smoking springs to mind), there does seem to be a reluctance to take proper precautions every time one engages in these types of activities. I know this stuff isn’t particularly “sexy” when it comes to the topics of the day, but reinforcing basic protective measures can’t be a completely lost cause, can it?

 

 

Be prepared

As the flu season commences, the specter of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and its “presentation” of flu-like symptoms is certainly going to make this a most challenging flu season. While (as this item goes to press) we’ve not seen any of the exposure cases that occurred in the United States result in significant harm to folks (the story in Africa remains less optimistic), it seems that it may be a while before we see an operational end to needing to be prepared to handle Ebola patients in our hospitals. But in recognition that preparedness in general is inextricably woven into the fabric of day-to-day operations in healthcare, right off the mark we can see that this may engender some unexpected dynamics as we move through the process.

And, strangely enough, The Joint Commission has taken an interest in how well hospital are prepared to respond to this latest of potential pandemics. Certainly, the concept of having respond to a pandemic has figured in the preparation activities of hospitals across the country over the past few years and there’s been a lot of focus in preparations for the typical (and atypical) flu season. And, when The Joint Commission takes an interest in a timely condition in the healthcare landscape, it increases the likelihood that questions might be raised during the current survey season.

Fortunately, TJC has made available its thoughts on how best to prepare for the management of Ebola patients and I think that you can very safely assume that this information will guide surveyors as they apply their own knowledge and experience to the conversation. Minimally, I think that we can expect some “coverage” of the topic in the Emergency Management interview session; the function of establishing your incident command structure in the event of a case of EVD showing up in your ED; whether you have sufficient access to resources to respond appropriately over the long haul, etc.

Historically, there’s been a fair amount of variability from flu season to flu season—hopefully we’ll be able to put all that experience to work to manage this year’s course of treatment. As a final thought, if you’ve not had the opportunity to check out the latest words from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the subject, I would direct your attention to recent CDC info on management of patients and PPE.

I suppose, if nothing else, the past few weeks of our encounter with Ebola demonstrates something along the best laid plans of mice and men: it’s up to us to make sure that those plans do not go far astray (with apologies to Robert Burns).

Uniformly clean

Reaching in once again to the viewer mailbag, we find a question regarding the laundering of staff uniforms. In this particular instance, this organization is moving from a business casual dress code for medical staff to providing scrubs (three sets each) to promote uniformity of attire (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). Now that the decision has been announced, there’s been a little pushback from the soon-to-be scrub-wearing folks as to whether the organization has to launder the scrubs if they become contaminated with blood or OPIM (the plan is for folks to take care of their own laundering).

So, in digging around a bit I found an OSHA interpretation letter that covers the question regarding the laundering of uniforms is raised and includes the following response:

Question 6: Is it permissible for employees to launder personal protective equipment like scrubs or other clothing worn next to the skin at home?

Reply 6: In your inquiry, you correctly note that it is unacceptable for contaminated PPE to be laundered at home by employees. However employees’ uniforms or scrubs which are usually worn in a manner similar to street clothes are generally not intended to be PPE and are, therefore, not expected to be contaminated with blood or OPIM. These would not need to be handled in the same manner as contaminated laundry or contaminated PPE unless the uniforms or scrubs have not been properly protected and become contaminated.

To my way of thinking, if the scrubs were to become contaminated, which would appear to be the result of the scrubs not having been properly protected (I’m reading that as “not wearing appropriate PPE), then the tacit expectation is that they would be handled in the same manner as contaminated laundry or contaminated PPE and since it is inappropriate for PPE to be laundered at home, then provisions would need to be made for the laundering of contaminated scrubs/uniforms. Now, you could certainly put in place safeguards, including the potential for corrective actions, if you have a “run” on folks getting their uniforms contaminated. It’s certainly possible that, from time to time, a uniform might become contaminated, but the proper use of PPE should keep that to a minimum.

How are folks out there in radio land managing scrubs that are used as uniforms (as opposed to being used as PPE)? Are you letting folks take care of their own garments or doing something that’s a little more involved? Always happy to hear what’s going on out there in the field.

And if I can take a moment of your time, I’d like to take this opportunity to remember my late colleague David LaHoda. This is the type of question he loved to answer and I loved helping him help folks out there in the great big world of safety. David, you are missed, my friend!

In your eyes – the light, the heat … the chemicals?

A couple of weeks ago, a client was asking me about who should be performing the weekly checks of eyewash stations. A clinical surveyor consultant had given them the impression that this should be the responsibility of maintenance staff. Now, I’m not sure if this direction was framed as a “must” or a “would be a good idea,” but what I can tell you is that there is no specific regulatory guidance in any direction on this topic. I do, however, have a fairly succinct opinion on the topic—yeah, I know you’re surprised to hear that!—which I will now share with you.

Certainly we want to establish a process to ensure the checks will be done when they need to be done. I agree that maintenance folks are typically more diligent when it comes to such routine activities than clinical folks often are. However, from an end-user education standpoint, I think it is way more valuable for the folks who may have to use the device in the area to actually practice its operation. If they do have a splash exposure, they would have a moderately increased familiarity with the location, proper operation, etc., of the device. Ideally, the eyewash will never have to be used because all our engineering controls and PPE will prevent that splash (strictly speaking, the eyewash is a last resort for when all our other safeguards have failed or otherwise broken down.

I’m also a believer (not quite like Neil Diamond, maybe more like Smashmouth) that providing for the safety of an organization is a shared responsibility. Sure, we have folks who call ourselves safety professionals help guide the way. But real safety lives at the point of care/point of service, where everyone works. So it’s only appropriate that each one of us take a piece of the action.

Alleged fire safety worries, other lapses spell big trouble for a hospital

There was an attention-getting article in this week’s issue of our Hospital Safety Connection e-newsletter about a California hospital that got fined 100 grand by the state for low humidity levels in an OR, which raised concerns that electrosurgical instruments could spark and ignite a fire in the dry air.

I have to admit that in my years of covering life safety, I never [more]

With OR humidity, follow CMS and risk assessment findings

There is a great deal of not-quite-controversy relative to humidity concerns in operating rooms (OR) because of the personal comfort aspect.

The American Institute of Architects’ 2001 Guidelines for Design and Construction of Hospital and Healthcare Facilities indicate a temperature range [more]

9/16 webinar on how IC ties into employee safety

7823_largeWe’ve got a great Webinar coming up on Wednesday called “Developing an Effective IC Program to Ensure Employee Health and Safety,” which takes place at 1 p.m. Eastern. You can also order it on-demand and watch it at your convenience if the initial broadcast time doesn’t fit into your schedule.

Among the topics our experts will discuss include how employee health ties into:

  • CDC guidelines and OSHA standards for staff member immunization
  • Personal protective equipment and respiratory protection
  • Screening and exposure protocols

This show is part of our series, Infection Prevention Core Training.

Questions raised at one hospital about adequate PPE supplies

Hi everyone, it’s Scott Wallask. My colleagues over at OSHA Healthcare Advisor blogged this week about a hospital that was butting heads with some employees regarding personal protective equipment.

The workers don’t believe the hospital has supplied enough PPE, which raises the question of what would happen to the absentee rate at this facility if a pandemic occurred. The hospital disagrees with the employees’ contention. It’s a though provoking blog post.