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.