Archive for: February, 2015

Is Ebola still scary?

By: February 25th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

With the word Ebola all but gone from the front pages, and the actual disease seemingly beaten back from our borders, one has to wonder if it’s okay to relax. Have we won the battle against one of the ugliest superbugs known to man?

Safety folks—a skeptical bunch by nature—say nope, now’s not the time to take the silence for granted. Ebola is still lurking out there, and it’s a still a big problem in Africa. As we have learned, all it takes is a plane ride to introduce the virus to healthcare facilities in the U.S.

We took a good look at the issue in the April issue of Briefings on Hospital Safety, and experts had quite a bit to say about what you should be doing to prepare your facility during this lull in Ebola activity. Here’s a taste of what they had to say:

Don’t drop your guard. Be glad it’s quiet, because the alternative (which includes both patients and healthcare workers suffering awful and dramatic deaths) is quite a nightmare scenario. Ebola should be something that is always prepared for. Triage questions that seek to determine an incoming patient’s travel history and symptoms should always be asked. Training sessions that practice proper PPE and response should be required for all staff, no questions asked.

There’s still no sign it’s going airborne. That’s extremely good news, especially considering a large part of the media hysteria surrounding Ebola centered on the question of whether the virus could go airborne somehow. The CDC still says no. What does that mean for healthcare workers? They aren’t likely to see a planeload of 250 passengers come in with symptoms of Ebola. It also means PPE and protocols don’t have to change much.

Keep practicing. Now is not the time to relax your protocols, intake procedures, or PPE. Nor is it time to let your supplies of equipment such as protective gowns, goggles, and respirators dwindle or lie dormant. If something requires batteries, check them to make sure they are working and that you have extras. And keep those training sessions going: make sure you are doing drills that challenge your staff, catch them by surprise so they can learn to work under stress while wearing PPE, and most of all, make sure they can learn to work as a team.

Plan for any hazards. You’ve more than likely heard this one many times by now. Your infection control planning as such shouldn’t focus on Ebola; rather, you should be focusing on the hardships your facility will face in an outbreak of any infectious disease. For instance, how will you protect your staff? How will you change the flow of patients into the hospital to ensure as few people as possible will be exposed? Is your media relations crew ready to handle the onslaught of misinformation that is likely to come out of the situation?

Mexico City hospital explosion highlights risks

By: February 10th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

Hospitals worldwide got a wake-up call about dealing with potentially explosive and flammable substances January 29 when a tanker truck that was unloading gas at a Mexico City children’s hospital exploded, reducing the facility to rubble and killing at least three people and wounded dozens.

The truck had been filling kitchen gas tanks at the hospital, reports said, and the explosion occurred as about 110 people in the Hospital Materno Infantil Cuajimalpa were being evacuated after a leak was discovered.

Shortly after the explosion, U.S. safety agencies, including the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) started sending out alerts, telling hospitals stateside that they should review their safety protocols, procedures for storing and transporting flammable and explosive substances, and making sure their employees were up to date on the latest training.

“You can never be too careful with the delivery of flammable gases,” says Marge McFarlane, PhD, CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP, principal of Superior Performance, LLC, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. “It’s a conscious acceptance of familiar risk, as people forget that it’s bad stuff. They probably receive deliveries 500 times without incident.”

We’d like to know – with the events that unfolded in Mexico City, will you be changing your protocols or doing anything to change the way hazardous substances are handled?

Feel free to drop me a line any time at

GHS preparations and the most dangerous employees

By: February 3rd, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

As we here in the Great White North known as Boston deal with a seemingly endless series of snowstorms and Patriots-palooza, I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate the next few months of newsletter articles.

As you probably know, June 1 of this year marks the OSHA deadline for adhering to the new GHS system of labeling hazardous chemicals in your facility. By then, it is expected that not only have you taught your employees to recognize the new Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on chemical containers but manufacturers will also be required to start providing the new labels with their products. The idea is to provide a seamless transition to a new labeling system that will be more universally known and make it easier for workers to know what they are working with and to obtain first aid information.

We all know it’s not that easy. I‘d like to know if you are having any problems transitioning to the new system. Are your employees trained, and are you noticing the new labels coming into your facilities with new stockpiles of chemicals. What hardships, if any, is this new labeling system causing you and how are you getting your employees ready?

Next, I’m compiling a list of the Top Most Dangerous Employees in the Healthcare Facility, and tips on how to deal with them. We’ve all seen them: the person who isn’t a team player, the one who thinks they know it all, and the one who doesn’t know they’re being dangerous.

I’d like to know who are the dangerous people dealt with in your careers, and short of firing them, how do you change or deal with them? Part of training is being able to work with your employees and helping them become safer at their jobs. I’d like to hear about your tips and techniques.

As always, feel free to drop me a line at

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