Archive for: March, 2016

The OSHA Consequences

By: March 24th, 2016 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.

Many lab managers and safety professionals tell me they cannot get staff to maintain compliance with the safety basics in the lab. There tends to be several different possible reasons for this, and you may encounter one or more of these in your work area:

-No management/medical director support of the lab safety program.

-No time for leadership to focus on safety.

-No safety education for staff/leadership.

-No understanding of consequences of unsafe behaviors.

There are safety savvy solutions for each of these areas, and they vary, but today we will focus on the last entry:  No understanding of consequences of unsafe behaviors. This can be a powerful educational tool in many ways when used to improve the lab safety culture. There are physical consequences, emotional consequences, and financial consequences for unsafe behaviors in the lab. Teaching any of these is beneficial, but things have changed in 2016, and the financial consequences to labs and hospitals have increased.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 allowed many federal agencies to review and adjust their civil penalties once every five years. One exemption that was made at the time was that OSHA would be excluded from any penalty-adjusting authority. 25 years later, OSHA has been granted the ability to adjust its fines to match inflation rates. That means that OSHA fines could potentially increase in 2016 by up to 80%. That means a $7,000 fine goes up to $12,600, and that’s just for one violation. A “willful” violation charge will move from $70,000 to $126,000.

These rate increases must be put in place by August of this year, and they can and will affect laboratories. This is information that can be used to explain to lab staff the importance of following safety guidelines. OSHA is visiting hospitals and labs in increasing numbers, especially since hospitals have been on their “high risk workplace” list for the past few years. Because of high worker injury rates, OSHA inspectors are coming for hospital visits, even without complaints or cause. Many hospitals have already been visited and inspected this year.

This is education that needs to be explained to staff, and should be connected to the importance of safety compliance in the lab. A sharps container with no lid is a single violation with a fine of $12,600. An employee working with open specimens and no face protection is a fine of $12,600. If a review of training records shows the employee was trained on PPE use, the fine becomes categorized as “willful,” and it increases to $126,000. If multiple violations are seen, the fines are multiplied as well. This can get very expensive, and in some cases it could close the facility. If personal safety doesn’t create compliance for your staff, use these numbers. They are real, and they can be quite impactful.

The fines levied by an OSHA inspector can vary. The actual amounts are at the discretion of the individual inspector, and it can be many weeks after an inspection before the exact fines are known. However, the inspector will not leave the lab without notifying them of what violations were recorded. Does your lab staff wear gloves when necessary? Do they button up their lab coats and keep their sleeves rolled down? Are they wearing shoes made of non-absorbent material? Is anyone chewing gum? These are the violations that can close the lab down if the circumstances are right.

Enforcement of lab safety practices is a constant job, and education is an important piece of it. Educate the staff on consequences as well. Help them to understand and appreciate the role they play in the continued safe operation of the laboratory.

Join us for 2016 Safety Focus Groups

By: March 15th, 2016 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi Folks –

By now you know that I often ask you for your opinion and expertise to help me write stories for our safety newsletters, Briefings on Hospital Safety,  Medical Environment Update, and Healthcare Life Safety Compliance. Now, I’d like to ask you to help me make your job easier to do.

In the next couple of months, I will be conducting a series of focus groups, and I would like to invite as many of you as possible to participate. This will be your chance to tell me how we at HCPro should be steering our safety products.

I’d like to find out more about you, my customers, and what you need to do your job better. There are many aspects of the safety market changing, and with it I need to know who you are and what will help you. I’d like to know where you are now getting your information, if not us, and why?

In addition, we have been working on building a new Web portal that will be designed around your needs as a safety professional, launching sometime in early 2017. The goal is to develop a place where you can go every single day to get all of the information and tools you need to keep up with what the regulators are doing, help keep your facility in compliance, and to make your workplace a safer one.

Please drop me a line at if you are interested and let me know what your general availability is. I will be scheduling focus groups of about 2-3 people based on mutually agreeable times.

Thank you so much for your help!

John Palmer
Managing Editor, Safety

Seeking feedback on PPE handbook

By: March 2nd, 2016 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi folks –

Once again, it’s time to ask your opinion about books we at the Safety group at HCPro are working on.

Our latest effort, due out in June, will be a book tentatively called the PPE Handbook for Healthcare Facilities. Based on customer research we conducted, a whopping 85% said they were concerned about proper PPE and its use, and about 50% said they were concerned about pandemic response. About 66% said they would buy a book about Ebola response, and 75% indicated they were likely to buy a book about reducing healthcare-associated infections and infection control as a whole.

Following the Ebola outbreak of late 2014, there were many healthcare workers who complained that their facility did not properly train them or provide proper PPE. In fact, about 50% of our respondents indicated they felt their facility was only “somewhat prepared” for a pandemic or biological emergency.

Another 84% said their facility was forced to change their response plan after last year’s outbreak of Ebola. These changes include new PPE and training their staff members to work with it. Others indicated they have created “SWAT” teams capable of responding quickly to new patients and isolate them quickly. Still others said they have updated their emergency plans to include an Ebola-specific plans, and have drilled with their staff.

We want to produce a book that will be a comprehensive primer of the proper PPE for any infectious diseases/substances healthcare workers are likely to encounter, especially given Ebola, MERS, and other highly infectious diseases that are showing up at hospitals. We could cover respirators, full body suits including donning and doffing techniques, spotters, PAPR respirators and N95 respirators as well as when each would be required. This will be a shorter, “go-to” reference that could also be used to help train your staff.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this book – what you’d like to see in it, what the need for the book is, and what tools, checklists and information you’d like to read about.

Please shoot me an email with your thoughts as soon as possible at Your input will help shape the content of the book!

Thank you!

John Palmer

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