Archive for: December, 2012

Bomb Threat Training

By: December 31st, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Question: Another practice in our medical complex had a bomb threat called in. What do I need to train our staff to do if it happens here?

Answer: The exact course of action will depend on whether the threat is received by phone, letter, handwritten note, email, or in the form of a suspicious package. Although what to do varies by situation, in all situations, do not:

  • Use two-way radios or cellular phones, because radio signals have the potential to detonate a bomb
  • Evacuate the building until after police arrive and evaluate the threat
  • Activate the fire alarm
  • Touch or move a suspicious package

The Department of Homeland Security has a good one-page document you can print out and put by each phone that receives outside calls to help staff members know what actions to take if they receive a suspicious call. It is available at

*This is an excerpt from The OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities by Sarah E. Alholm, MAS.

Share your “Groundhog Day” stories

By: December 27th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Hello, OSHA Healthcare Advisor Readers!

Medical Environment Update editor Will Kilburn here. Looking ahead to the February issue, I’m working on a story based around the central theme of the movie Groundhog Day as it relates to healthcare safety.

Those of you who have seen the film can skip the next couple of paragraphs, but if you haven’t: It stars Bill Murray as a big-city TV weatherman who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the yearly emergence of Phil the Groundhog. Murray’s character—also named Phil– clearly despises the duty, and as such he does a shoddy job at it.

A freak snowstorm that afternoon prevents Phil from going back to the city, but the next morning, Phil wakes up to find that it’s February 2 once again, and he’s forced to repeat the day’s events, over and over again, continually waking up every morning to find that it’s still Feb. 2. Eventually, Phil realizes that to break the cycle, get to the next day, and get out of Punxsutawney, it’ll take hard work and—very importantly—a different approach to his dilemma.

My questions to you are:

1. Have you ever encountered a safety issue which is caused by someone/some people repeatedly doing something wrong, or a problem that you see many people or facilities doing? (The cause could be anything—lack of attention, the wrong technique, or simply failing to bother to do a good job)
2. How was it resolved? Was it something that was said, something that was shown to someone?

What I’m looking for here is any combination of a nuts-and-bolts solution–a change in technique, or a different placement of equipment– or a solution which involves a change in approach to the problem. If you like you can also email me directly at

Responses will become part of a story for the Feburary 2013 issue of Medical Environment Update.

Best, Will

Survey: Seasonal safety

By: December 19th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

The holiday season has begun, and (for some of you) winter weather is either here or on its way. As you look ahead to all that the holidays and cold temperatures bring, we’re wondering what your top safety-related concerns are for the weeks and months ahead.

Do increased patient loads put a strain on your staff? What about staff vacations or illnesses– does being short-staffed, or simply changing the routine, put you at a greater risk for safety issues? Is the main concern Old Man Winter, and how it affects your facility’s systems? Take the survey below; answers will be compiled in a future issue of the Hospital Safety Insider ezine and the Medical Environment Update newsletter.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Organizing the MSDS

By: December 11th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: I am trying to standardize and simplify the organization of the MSDS in our organization. Many products that we use have a constituent in them that may be hazardous. In a true emergency, the employee may not know what hazardous substance is in the product but should know to look it up in the MSDS manual. An example is laboratory test kits that may contain a diluent or extraction solution. In that case, do you organize the MSDS by the manufacturer’s brand name, or by the common name of the product? What are you suggestions/guidelines?

A: My recommendation is to organize alphabetically based on the common names, since in an emergency this is where staff members will look first for information. OSHA requires that the name on the actual container label match up with the name on the MSDS, so do a spot check of this, too. If you use an identical product from multiple manufacturers, you don’t have to file an MSDS for each company. A single representative MSDS is okay as long as the information is complete and your staff members know which product it’s for.

*This is an excerpt from The OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities by Sarah E. Alholm, MAS.

Portable fire extinguishers

By: December 3rd, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: How should I mount and mark portable fire extinguishers? Is it mandatory for fire extinguishers to be mounted on the wall or poles? Do they need to have a sign? Do they need to be painted red?

A: According to OSHA’s Fire Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.157), “the employer shall provide portable fire extinguishers and shall mount, locate, and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subject the employees to possible injury.” So yes, please mount your portable extinguishers within 75 feet of employee work areas, 50 feet for class B or C extinguishers. Also, use appropriate labels/signs so the extinguishers can be identified. Regarding painting the extinguishers, in the United States they are usually red, but this is not a requirement. The color of the extinguisher often depends on its contents. For example, sometimes dry chemical extinguishers are yellow to distinguish them from carbon dioxide extinguishers (red), especially if both types are used in the same area.

Finally, obtain the MSDS for the fire extinguisher you use in your facility and keep it on file.

*This is an excerpt from The OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities by Sarah E. Alholm, MAS.

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