One of the recurring complaints I get from folks in the clinic safety field is that it can be difficult to get employees to take OSHA seriously, especially when there are a lot of “old-timers” and newcomers in the industry who may have never experienced the wrath of an OSHA inspection. It’s such a problem that that we’ve devoted an entire story on the subject in the May issue of Medical Environment Update, and decided to give you some tips on how to get your employees to take safety seriously. I’d like to share with you some of the tips our experts came up with for you to use in your own facility:
Make compliance fun – Most safety lapses are a function of a busy day combined with a lack of education: Jerry the maintenance guy, for example, probably meant to come back and remove the supply cart that he left in front of the exit door, but he got preoccupied to do something else and forgot. So it’s time to make compliance fun, and if you already hold staff trainings on a regular basis, you probably already do. Have a safety scavenger hunt, or start a new campaign that gets everyone involved.
Money talks – There is little that will get people to listen than talking about money. The reality is that a violation from OSHA translates to hefty fines that can hit you hard in the wallet – $7,000 to start, which can then quadruple if the violation is found again. That may seem trivial for bigger clinic system and hospitals, but when it comes time for raises, bonuses, and new equipment, you can’t have it when you are paying big fines. Plus, you could potentially be shut down for it.
Be Present – For some safety officials who work in large groups of medical clinics, it can be difficult to keep track of what everyone is doing. Being in the field and making an occasional appearance is the best way to make sure employees know that the boss is watching.
Keep good records – There will always be that employee that will tell you they didn’t know they were supposed to follow a certain rule, or wear certain protective gear, or that they didn’t receive certain training. If they ever call you out during a disciplinary action, it will be up to you to produce proof that they are wrong. That’s why it’s important to keep your training records up to date. It’s also what you will show an inspector to let them know that you are in compliance with OSHA regulations.
Don’t always be the nice guy – There comes a point where you have to step up to your employees and let them know that without compliance, there will be consequences, up to and including termination. A good example is the perennial debate around mandatory flu shots. Many hospitals and medical clinics have made it a requirement of employment that workers get vaccinated for patient safety. Bottom line: no compliance, no job.