Archive for: September, 2014

OSHA tightens up reporting rules

By: September 29th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

If you’ve been watching the news coming out of Safetyland, you know that OSHA last week announced a change in its rules on the reporting of workplace deaths and severe injuries, requiring that employers must report any fatalities within eight hours of the accident or incident beginning January 1.

It’s not much of a surprise, and the new rule has been anticipated for some time. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels explained that work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye will now have to be reported within 24 hours under the new rule.

Previously, OSHA regulations required such reports to be filed only if three or more workers were killed or hospitalized while on the job, and reporting single hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye was not required.

I’ll be following up on this story in the newsletters, and I’d like to know how this will affect your facilities. Will you be doing anything different? Are you for it or against it? And will this new rule make the healthcare workplace any safer?

Scary close calls in healthcare safety

By: September 23rd, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

In our upcoming October issue of Medical Environment Update, our experts tell ghoulish tales of lessons they came a little too close to learning in their careers in safety. If you’ve been in the safety field for any length of time, you’ve heard the warnings of all the things that can go wrong in the workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to live the consequences of a truly bad accident—something that can maim you for life or change your life or career forever.

The reality, however, is that over the course of a career that can span 20 or 30 years, chances are that you will experience a scary close call—whether it was caused by carelessness by yourself or a co-worker or circumstances beyond your control.

We almost poisoned the water system – When you’re at home, it’s taken for granted that you can pretty much pour anything down the drain, because chances are you aren’t pouring poison away. In a lab or medical office, that might be a different story, and if you aren’t careful you can pollute or even poison the water supply.

“When I first became a safety officer, we got notified right away that the effluent from our hospital was bad,” says Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a multi-hospital system in the Tidewater region of Virginia. “Back in those days it was OK to pour things down the sink, but you have to do it right, because the local wastewater authority is very specific about what you can put down the drain. They want certain bacteria living in the water system and a low pH will kill it.”

Chemicals almost burned the maintenance guy – You’ll hear it over and over again: wear your PPE when you are handling hazardous materials, especially eye protection. Why? Because you never know when an accidental spill might get in your eyes.

In a hospital she worked in, Marge McFarlane, PhD, MT(ASCP), CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP, principal of Superior Performance, LLC, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin,  says a maintenance worker was called to investigate a water leak in a ceiling. When he opened the ceiling tiles—without eye protection—it turned out to be Potassium Hydroxide, a chemical with a pH of about 13 used in radiology processing in a lab directly above him. Apparently, workers had cut plastic corners off film being developed, which allowed the chemical to overflow in the drain above and leak through the ceiling.

“Talk about scary, because it will burn your eyes out,” she says. “It’s a very caustic material. He was just responding to a routine call.”

Someone torched the lab courier’s car – Most labs and medical offices take advantage of a courier service of some sort to transport specimens and records, but no one expects them to take a joyride and end up in a fireball. That’s exactly what happened in Scungio’s system, when a thief took off with the courier’s car.

“To take a short cut he left his car open and running while running into a doctor’s office, and the car got stolen with patient specimens and reports,” he says, adding that the compromised patient data was a major HIPAA violation. “If that wasn’t enough he took it into a field and torched the car, and threw the records out in a field. These are real stories; this really happened. Don’t leave your cars running or unlocked. It wasn’t pretty.”

Guest column: Developing a Safety Committee

By: September 16th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

The following is a guest commentary from Linda Gylland, MLS (ASCP), QLS, a laboratory safety officer with Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.

Being a large healthcare system, many sets of eyeballs are necessary in order to have a ‘culture of safety.’  It is important to get feedback from as many departments/locations as possible on a routine basis.

Quarterly safety committee meetings bring these members together to discuss problems, policies, injuries, hazardous chemicals, questions and educational opportunities. Since our healthcare system has mandatory online education, safety courses which are annually being updated by our education department are consistently completed by all staff.

Labs are not always included in these meetings, and in order to get an overall picture and be connected as a whole, it is important to be a part of “the group” and to be “in the know.”  Something is always gained by ‘being there’ and voicing concerns to represent hundreds of lab staff.  Being a lab safety officer is a lonely position; questions are being asked from all directions and other people oftentimes need to be included and involved.  All answers are not immediately known; it is helpful to have a group to confide in and get helpful input.  It’s like having a pen pal!

With input from an organized safety committee, an annual safety competency is sent to all lab staff employees. This may include searching policies for answers, emergency response, waste disposal and SDS online.  The last question of the competency always includes “Do you feel your safety needs are being met?”  The lab safety officer compiles these questions and discusses them at our meeting, or sooner if necessary.  With all departments working together- clinical lab safety and hospital safety- it is possible to have a “culture of safety” regardless of your size.


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