Archive for: December, 2014

Upcoming webinar: Mock OSHA inspections

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

You get told all the time that you should prepare for that rare time that OSHA may come in to inspect your facility, but do you know how?

Join HCPro on Wednesday, Jan. 14 from 1-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time for a special live webinar, “OSHA Mock Inspections: How to Assess and Improve Staff and Facility Safety.”

This program will help supervisors and managers ensure employee safety compliance in physician offices, clinics, and other facilities.

Speaker Sarah Alholm, the author of the new HCPro book OSHA Mock Inspection Made Simple, will explain what to look for in areas with and without direct patient care. She will also provide guidance on maintaining proper documentation for safety-related plans and training.

At the conclusion of this program, participants will be able to:

  • Increase employee input and create safety cultures to reduce the likelihood of employee complaints and subsequent OSHA inspections
  • Explain the most common OSHA citations at medical facilities
  • Take the steps necessary to avoid the most common OSHA citations
  • Comply with OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a safe place of employment regardless of whether OSHA has issued a standard on a particular hazard
  • Develop and implement an action plan for a no-notice on-site OSHA inspection

For more information or to register click here to access the HCPro Marketplace.


How do you have fun while doing emergency drills?

By: December 19th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi folks –

One of the things I love about my job covering hospital and clinic safety is talking to the different people involved, and listening to the creative things they do every day to get their staff involved in maintaining a safe environment.

I used to work as a fifth grade teacher, and I can tell you that unless you keep the classroom fun and entertaining, a lot of times the lesson gets lost on a room full of people who don’t really want to be there.

The same can be said for your emergency drills. We all know emergency exercises are part of the job when it comes to making sure your staff is ready, and making sure the Joint Commission, CMS, and OSHA are happy.

I had one safety officer tell me about an instance where a possum got loose in the hospital – they turned it into an on-the-spot drill that practiced what they would do for an intruder in the hospital. Another did a triage drill for Halloween, which featured 50 life-like zombies (they were made up professionally) that swarmed the ER with a disease called “Zombthrax.”  The public health department set up their decontamination tents outside, M&Ms were given to the victims as antidote pills, and staff members practiced triaging and working together to help practice for real life.

I’m very interested in hearing other stories of fun drills and exercises you have done with your facilities. Please drop me a line, along with a few paragraphs detailing what you did at I would love to use your experiences in a fun and informative upcoming story.

Happy Holidays!

John Palmer


Guest blog: Hand in Mouth

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

The following is a guest blog by Dan Scungio, MT (ASCP), SLS, a Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a multi-hospital system in the Tidewater region of Virginia.

The safety culture varies greatly from laboratory to laboratory. Most lab employees these days know that eating food or drinking in the lab is against most (if not all) lab regulatory agency rules and guidelines. However, it is surprising that many do not seem to understand that gum chewing or using hard candy or throat lozenges is also not permitted in a laboratory setting.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard specifically states that “Eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics or lip balm, and handling contact lenses are prohibited in work areas where there is a reasonable likelihood of occupational exposure.” Obviously the goal of this regulation is to prevent employees from obtaining infection via ingestion. A secondary goal is to limit hand to mouth contact while working in the laboratory. That goal is also to there to prevent ingestion infection.

So far there has been no mention of gum or cough drops in the standards, and you’re going to tell me your staff is going to argue against this.

In the National Research Council’s Prudent Practices in the Laboratory (1995), it states that “Eating, drinking, smoking, gum chewing, applying cosmetics, and taking medicine in laboratories where hazardous chemicals are used should be strictly prohibited.” In CLSI’s document Clinical Laboratory Safety (GP-17 A3, 2012), it states that “Food, drink, and substances that provide potential hand-to-mouth contact (including chewing gum and lip balm) are pro­hibited in technical work areas.”

Most inspectors of the laboratory will cite the lab for gum chewing or the like. An employee may respond that the gum was placed into their mouth outside the lab, but proving that would be difficult at best. It’s an inappropriate and unsafe practice, and it should not be allowed.

Again, limit hand to mouth or hand to face contact in the laboratory. What about telephone use? There are speaker options for phones which can help, but some labs are too noisy for that type of use. Disinfect phones often if that is the case.

As with any other safety regulation, if you explain it to staff, and if you make it easy to comply, your safety culture will improve. Educate your staff about these guidelines and standards and why they exist. Unfortunately, many laboratorians fell victim to harmful infectious diseases before these regulations were developed. Don’t let your staff become another part of those unfortunate lab safety statistics.

Expert tips on training for Ebola

By: December 9th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

Hear that? That’s the relative quiet we’ve been enjoying since the media furor over the U.S. cases of Ebola died down. It doesn’t mean the virus is gone, and it’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of it in U.S. healthcare facilities.

But healthcare took a hard blow, and as healthcare workers spoke up about the lack of confidence they had in their training facilities had to get real about making sure they were prepared. Meanwhile, the government stepped up, understanding they needed to take more of proactive approach to helping them prepare.

I had the pleasure this week of talking with some notable experts in the field of infection control, including Peter Provonost, MD, critical care physician and medical director of the Quality and Safety Research Group at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, who teamed up with the CDC to develop and record a series of easy-to-follow training videos designed to help healthcare workers in clinics and hospitals understand the complicated steps involved in donning and doffing the PPE required to treat patients with Ebola.

Access the training videos at the following link:

Meanwhile, here’s some tips experts suggest for safety officials to consider when training their own staff:

Know what you don’t know. Ebola is uncharted territory for many of you out there. The CDC and many other safety agencies have changed their recommendations about protocols as recently as within the last six months, and unless you are constantly keeping up on things, you’ll soon be out of compliance. Keep up on all the latest journals, bookmark government agencies for all the latest information on the Ebola outbreak, and talk to your employees. What do they want to know? Find out the answers and have a training session.

Be open to new things. Instead of using lectures or simply printing out guidelines released by the CDC or OSHA for your staff to review, try video training or printing posters or other visual aids that can be hung around the clinic for them to review. Even better, hire a consultant to come in and do some hands-on training. Some companies (and hospitals) will actually bring gowns, coveralls, and masks to your facility and let your staff practice donning and doffing PPE. In addition, it’s a good idea to let them get into pairs and practice using a buddy system when doing procedures.

Get to know your neighbors. In the event that even one Ebola patient walks through your door, it’s going to immediately take over all resources you have. You’re going to need some help. If your facility is connected to a hospital, maybe you have a deal worked out to have physicians, nurses, and other staff to come help out with the extra patient load. You will need to have vendors who can resupply your facility quickly if a high patient surge drains your backup stashes quickly, and if your facility is a lab, or if you have a lab on site, make sure you’ve checked with your couriers to ensure who will transport blood samples.

Practice for the real thing. Perhaps it’s time to hold a drill just like the safety folks at hospitals do every year to maintain accreditation with agencies such as the Joint Commission. You can make it as real as possible: perhaps using volunteer “victims” to walk in and engage your staff, acting as if they may have traveled to African nations and now they are exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms. The idea is to challenge your staff and to test their responses. They will make mistakes; your goal is to help them learn from them and improve.

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