It’s hard to believe that it’s not even Christmas yet, and I’m already working on newsletters for February and March. I invite you to take a look at the January edition of Medical Environment Update, which will feature a Q &A piece with Dan Scungio, known as “Dan the Lab Safety Man.” Dan is a Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a multi-hospital system in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Here’s an excerpt of my piece with him this month:
What will be the biggest issues OSHA will target this year? Do you think there will be more inspections? Why or why not?
With the December 1, 2013 deadline for mandatory training on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), I suspect OSHA may target chemical management in 2014. Every employee who handles hazardous chemicals was required to have training on the new label elements (including pictograms) and the updated Safety Data Sheet (SDS) format. While hospitals and other medical facilities seem to be more frequently on OSHA’s hit list these days, it is likely there will be fewer inspections in 2014. That’s probably a result of continued reduction in staff and another potential government shutdown or lack of funding for the organization.
It’s no secret that healthcare workers have some of the highest rates of injury in any industry. What, in your opinion, are some of the things that put clinic workers at the most risk?
The highest risk for clinic workers tends to be via their direct contact with patients. Collecting blood or even nasal samples brings staff in close contact making viral spread fairly easy. Other sources of risk include needle sticks and other bloodborne pathogen exposure from handling patient samples. Bloodborne diseases include hepatitis and HIV.
OSHA is proposing a new rule that would require employers to report workplace injuries electronically, publicly and more often. How would this new rule affect most workplaces? Is this a positive step? Why or why not?
I think this is a positive step for many reasons. Employees and employers both should be open and transparent about their injuries and exposures. That promotes an atmosphere not if blame, but rather it forces the focus to be on the solutions which is a good thing. Also, knowing the data can help specific sites determine goals- benchmark data can always be helpful when examining site-specific injury rates. I know some people think this proposal may lead some employers to under-report because of fear of reprisals or investigations, and OSHA will need to be careful about their use of the data. With care, they can set a positive response and eventual improvements in employee injury rates.