For safety’s sake, follow “House” and “Scrubs” on the tube; not in your practice

By: January 14th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

I spent a fair amount of time over the holidays watching the continuing TV adventures of my favorite misanthrope, Dr. Gregory House.

One of the curious things that I’ve noticed (which is clearly a manifestation of my own obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as my safety-consultant nature) is that the sharps disposal containers located in each of the care environments represented in the various episodes of “House” appear to be mounted at an aperture height of about 72 inches.

And lo and behold, I “bumped” into an episode of  “Scrubs” and the sharps containers appear to be mounted at the same height (unless it’s an optical illusion and everyone on each of the shows is really tiny).

Which makes me wonder-could they produce the risk assessment indicating that particular mounting height is appropriate? The Joint Commission talks of such a risk assessment in one of its official FAQs. Remember, the FAQs hold the same weight as the standards themselves.

From an OSHA perspective, sharps disposal containers must be “easily accessible to personnel” (1910.1030[d][4][iii][A][2][i]), which includes positioning them at a safely reachable height.

NIOSH has a good publication on evaluating and selecting sharps disposal containers  that includes, Appendix B-Determining Sharps Disposal Container Installation Height Using Standard Ergonomic Measurements. The appendix provides equations and a diagram for setting the height of the container, but, in cutting to the chase, the optimal height of a wall mounted sharps container is “52 to 56 inches above the standing surface of the user,” according to NIOSH.

If “House” and “Scrubs” were reality, my prognosis would be for a serious OSHA citation.

What other dubious safety situations have you seen on medical TV shows that wouldn’t pass OSHA or Joint Commission muster? Let me know in the comment section below.


By David LaHoda on January 14th, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only compulsive safety wonk out there. I always notice and comment, to the detriment of my viewing partners, the lack of safety needles and the use of PPE in TV medical show situations. Can you imagine in real life what Dr. House would do if you criticized him on non-compliant OSHA practices?

Don’t even get me started!
I am an MRI technologist and the way our profession is butchered is unbelievable. Bullets sucked out of heads, exploding tattoo’s, I could go on ……. and all of these after the magnet is TURNED ON.
I have actually lectured extensively around the country about how a number of studies have been done showing that the public draws quite a bit of their healthcare information from prime-time comedies and drama’s. This just set’s us up for unrealistic understandings of one of the most potentially dangerous pieces of equipment in the hospital — arrgh!

The Scrubs that I saw was on Handwashing and Infection control ( or non-infection control 🙂 ) The episode shows how contaminated hands transferred germs from one person to another, until it affected a patient– who dies in the next episode. I would love to have this on tape so that I could use it for educational purposes.

By Sherry Whipple on March 26th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Our safety program has produced a lot of “safety junkies”. On separate occasions staff have told me how they saw sharps disposed of incorrectly at the local hospital and how often a staff member (at the hospital) did not wear gloves when handling sharps.

And on a personal note, my husband had a home health nurse for a month, taking care of a new healing chest wound. The nurse told me I intimidated her because of my background in OSHA. My feeling was if she did her job properly and used her PPE there would be no reason for her to feel this way.


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