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Mac’s Safety Space: Humidity in the operating room

Q. I have a question regarding OR humidity. If OR humidity drops below the required range, can a portable reservoir type humidifier be used to bring the humidity back up within range? If not, what should the facility do? Should the facility stop surgeries?

I have been researching the World Wide Web to find additional information. What I have found is that reservoir type humidifiers should not be placed in duct work. Any additional help would be greatly appreciated.


A. The humidity levels are very much in the way of guidelines as opposed to strict regulations. Recently, ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) dropped the lower control limit for humidity to 20%, basically because electrical systems and OR environments in general are much better designed and can safely tolerate a “drier” environment.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the comfort of occupants, and as long as the OR rooms aren’t dripping condensation, the infection control risks are minimal. However, if you are dealing with humidity levels below 20%, I would contact your HVAC vendor and see what type of humidification is available.

You are correct in that reservoir-type humidifiers should not be placed in duct work, but there is humidification equipment that can be installed for those really dry days.

Don’t shoot the care provider; make hospitals safer for workers

Following a wealth of discussion on the John Hopkins Hospital shooting that took place a few weeks ago, The Baltimore Sun reports that according to a federal lab report, healthcare workers are four times as likely as the average American worker to encounter violence on the job. The risk is higher for those working in psychiatric or emergency units.

The article suggests that patient safety is directly linked to staff safety, and that workplace violence in hospitals is an “epidemic” that needs to be recognized by the public and remedied. The Baltimore Sun informs that healthcare workers are not only threatened by guns being brought into the facility (much of the discussion surrounding the shooting was focused on the need for metal detectors), but that a majority of staff assault is by patients who push, punch, scratch or choke.

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A balancing act – no nets, no problem!

I’m sure you’ve all been discussing the shooting that happened last week at Johns Hopkins, as I have. I don’t know that this changes the landscape all that much – we know this threat exists, and we know that there is only so much preventative medicine that we can employ without turning our facilities into armed camps.

At this point, I am not familiar with a lot of specific detail – sometimes a person’s parent can be the focus of a lot of ill feelings, and sometimes those feelings will prompt an action far in excess of normal behavior. That being said, I trust that you are all establishing a means of continuously identifying workplace violence risks, and establishing response plans with municipal law enforcement.

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Implementing workplace violence policies

Howdy, safety profs!

I’ve received a number of inquiries lately looking for workplace violence policies. I figured if a few might have questions, then that’s enough indication to me that there may be some other folks as well looking for these elusive policies.

With all that said, to be honest, I don’t know that I would advise pursuing policy development. It’s more than likely that any policies you would need to support the management of risks associated with workplace violence are already in existence. The key to compliance is to follow the risk assessment recommendations in the SEA and, for all intents and purposes, conduct a gap analysis based on the elements identified in the SEA.

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Following deadly shootings, Knoxville hospital demonstrates the value of Twitter

Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville, TN, showed the value of social media in the face of a tragic situation, when an alleged gunman shot three employees before killing himself on Monday.

The medical center updated its Web site’s home page for visitors, and more interestingly, the facility kept people apprised of details via its Twitter page.

Twitter is a useful tool to convey information when an incident or emergency unfolds. I’d have to imagine the hospital’s “tweets” were read by many people online who wanted to follow what was going on in the aftermath of the shooting. I know I was reading them. The beauty of Twitter is the user controls the information that the public reads, which is an attractive aspect in the wild west of the Internet.

If you’re interested in the latest hospital environment of care updates, check out our Twitter postings.

Knoxville shootings offer a chance to review your security training

A terrible shooting at Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville, TN, on Monday — one victim and the alleged gunman are dead, two other victims are hospitalized — proves how rapidly a security incident can unfold. It’s likely the suspect shot his victims and then killed himself before police and security officers even had a chance to help.

In such cases, it seems the priority is [more]

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]

Learn the latest strategies for ED violence prevention at our symposium

Anyone who’s ever seen healthcare security expert Fred Roll speak knows he packs his discussions with details and examples, so we’re bound to have a lively discussion about ED violence when Roll appears at our 4th Annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium May 6-7.

Roll will look at how to better prepare the ED for workplace violence and pandemic surges. When developing this session, we thought it made sense to focus on one of the most problem-prone areas of the hospital when it comes to security concerns, so attendees will walk away with specific ideas to bring back to their EDs.

You still have plenty of time to join us live in Las Vegas for the Hospital Safety Center Symposium. If eduation budgets remain tight at your facility, you can also participate virtually via a live Webcast of the event.

I encourage you to check out our full agenda and speakers for this exciting program, and whether it’s in person or on the Web, I’m looking forward to meeting many of you.

Disaster recovery steps may require a security aspect to them

There’s been a lot of flooding in the Northeast, and no doubt some hospitals there are suffering through water damage and related facilities issues. In many ways, because flooding can occur quickly in a building’s low points, such incidents become an exercise in recovery steps.

During the 4th Annual Hospital Safety Center Symposium May 6-7, emergency management expert Joe Cappiello, chair of Cappiello & Associates in Elmhurst, IL, will speak about business recovery strategies following a disaster.

A key point Cappiello will discuss is a greater need for [more]

Download our popular (and free) special report on Joint Commission citations

If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out why more than 1,100 of your colleagues have downloaded a free special report posted on the Hospital Safety Center.

The six-page white paper, “Joint Commission survey update 2010: Detailed citations in the environment of care, life safety, and emergency management standards,” reports on the results on an exclusive poll we conducted of hospitals surveyed last year.

You’ll see which EC, emergency management, and life safety standards pulled the biggest citations, and also read specific information about a variety of deficiencies that surveyors noted. This is one of the most popular special reports we’ve ever published, so don’t be left out.