Medical Environment Update—Environmental services: Prevent infections and ensure safety

By: November 24th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

Environmental services employees can be crucial to the well-being of your patients and your staff. That is the feature story in the November issue of Medical Environment Update, which specifically looks as training contract workers, developing policies and procedures, establishing day-to-day cleaning procedures, along with tips on identifying  high-touch surfaces, cleaning up a spill, and the bleach vs. disinfectant decision.

Here is an excerpt from that article and a look at what else is covered in November issue.

Even with initiatives such as hand hygiene awareness, respiratory etiquette, and standard and contact precautions hoarding much of the infection control spotlight, environmental cleaning and disinfection have emerged as primary infection prevention sources.

As organisms such as MRSA and C. diff have become an increasing concern for hospitals and outpatient care facilities, environmental services employees have evolved into a critical sector of infection control and worker safety.

“There is this understanding and acceptance and recognition and respect that environmental services technicians are the front line of infection prevention,” says Patti Costello, executive director of the American Society of Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES). “You’re only as good as your weakest link, so the better your training, the better your communication with infection control, and the better the relationship between environmental services and the infection control professional, the stronger your environmental services program is going to be.”

However, their increased importance in preventing infections means more training requirements for infection control policies and OSHA compliance.

The Medical Environment Update November issue also includes:

  • OSHA news on mandatory flu shots and the the proposed adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)
  • General and bloodborne pathogens OSHA violations by practices size and facility type
  • Quick self-inspection checklist on how mock inspections make for good compliance
  • An H1N1 rap video that gives winning advice and signs to keep your vaccine refrigerator running
  • 13 Ask the expert Q&As, twitter style
  • A special report: Checking In on Safety and Health: Ten Essential OSHA Checklists for Medical, Dental, and Other Ambulatory Care Settings
  • An update to your OSHA manual on service animal policy
To help illustrate that point,
Medical Environment Update
has collected a sampling of stories
describing situations that contend
with OSHA and employee safety
regulations. These extreme but
true tales will make even a novice
safety officer cringe.


I am receiving different responses to the age old question of is soiled linen (as in soiled with stool or blood to bagged as is at the bedside) and sent to laundry or taken to utility room, rinsed, then bagged and sent to laundry. APIC says no, and Some ASHES members are saying rinse before laundry…What is the OSHA interpretation? What is the exact procedure from bed to washing machine? thank you in advance

By David LaHoda on January 6th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

OSHA standards are not specific about the “exact procedure from bed to washing machine.” Standards, because of their nature and function, seldom are.

The only specific prohibition against rinsing occurs in section (d)(4)(iv)(A)(1) of the standard:

“Contaminated laundry shall be bagged or containerized at the location where it was used and shall not be sorted or rinsed in the location of use.”

One could infer that the specific prohibition against rinsing “in the location of use” means that there are some situations where rinsing is acceptable. Also, under Other Recommended Good Practices on the OSHA hospital etool page it says:

“Rinsing soiled laundry in utility rooms is acceptable, if it is not contaminated with blood, OPIM, or does not contain sharps.”

The key here is the use of the word, “recommended.” Usually OSHA is very circumspect when using recommended vs. required.

My best advice is to assess whether rinsing is necessary. If not, why potentially expose your workers to the hazard.

As for ASHES and APIC, these organizations can always set standards that are stricter than OSHA, which in many cases is not bad. The difference is that ASHES and APIC cannot fine you, but OSHA can.

By Barbara Morris on August 18th, 2019 at 7:13 pm

What is considered reasonable time for small wet floor spell of human waste?


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