Archive for: May, 2017

Safety of healthcare workers and their patients ‘two sides of the same coin’

By: May 30th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Feds push Safe+Sound Week: June 12-18, 2017

Healthcare employers should promote worker safety for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that keeping doctors and nurses safe helps to keep patients safe as well, according to federal OSHA officials.

“Worker safety and patient safety really are two sides of the same coin,” OSHA Deputy Director Andy Levinson said during a webinar last week encouraging participation in Safe + Sound Week 2017. The nationwide event, scheduled for June 12-18, aims to promote health and safety programs on the local organizational level.

“In our work with healthcare institutions, particularly hospitals, there is good linkage between safety health programs and the high-reliability culture activities that are going on in healthcare,” Levinson added, responding to a question from a nurse in Louisville, Ky.

Organizations of all sizes and industries are encouraged to participate in the special emphasis week by coming up with one or more ways to demonstrate their commitment to safety. These could include public events, employee training sessions, new graphics and signs, social media posts, and more.

Major partners for the event include the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN), American Nurses Association (ANA), Association of Occupational health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP), The Joint Commission, and others.

Nurses held hostage at Ill. hospital accuse deputy of fleeing scene

By: May 26th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Two nurses who were held hostage earlier this month by an inmate receiving medical care at an Illinois hospital, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing a security guard of putting them in danger then running away.

Instead of protecting medical staff from 21-year-old Tywon Salters, who was being cared for at Delnor Community Hospital in Geneva after swallowing liquid cleaner and a sandal at the jail, security guard Shawn Loomis left the inmate “totally unrestrained in the hospital room” for at least 30 minutes, the suit alleges.

Salters then grabbed a handgun from Loomis about 12:30 p.m. May 13, before finding the nurses and holding them at gunpoint. Salters forced one of the nurses into a first-floor “decontamination room,” where he sexually assaulted her for the next three hours, until a SWAT team broke in and killed him, according to the lawsuit.

Loomis, a corrections officer employed by the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and the private firm APEX3 Security LLC, allegedly fled the room when Salters took his weapon. Loomis shut himself in another room and “took no action whatsoever to protect hospital staff and nurses after he lost control” of Salters, the suit states. He and both of his employers were named as defendants.

The nurses accuse Kane County, APEX3, and Loomis of failing to protect them from a known danger. Their husbands, who are also plaintiffs in the suit, raise “loss of consortium” claims against the three defendants.

Sean Murray, the attorney representing all four anonymous plaintiffs, said in a news conference Thursday that his clients have suffered significantly.

“I represent employees who just came to work that day to do their job, and they left traumatized for life,” Murray said, according to The Beacon-News. The hospital and its system, Northwestern Medicine, were not named as defendants.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory damages and other relief. Officials with the Kane County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the specific allegations raised, Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Trump’s budget largely spares OSHA, would gut other programs

By: May 24th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

This week, the White House released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, titled “A New Foundation For American Greatness.” The proposal calls for tax cuts, a 10% increase in military spending, and $1.6 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, while cutting deep into Medicaid and other programs for the poor.

Although the document calls for a nearly 20% cut to the Labor Department’s budget, it largely spares OSHA programs from the chopping block, though it could still inhibit OSHA’s operations. The Susan Harwood Training Grants program is the only OSHA program up for elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, a move that would save $10.5 million, Bloomberg BNA reported.

The balanced budget is built upon what New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis described as “an improbable promise” of 3% economic growth.

If the proposed budget were to pass as written—a move that would be highly unlikely, since Congress has historically made significant alterations to the president’s plan before finalizing it—then OSHA’s budget would be cut about 2% from $552.8 million in Fiscal Year 2017 to $543.3 million in Fiscal Year 2018.

Even a modest cut, however, could significantly impair OSHA’s ability to enforce workplace safety regulations, especially given the White House’s deregulatory push, according to Jordan Barab, MA, who served as an OSHA deputy assistant secretary under former President Barack Obama.

“The administration may regret that when they realize that it takes as many or more resources to roll back standard[s] as it takes to issue them in the first place,” Barab wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “And remember that because of inflation and other increasing expenses, a flat budget is actually a budget cut. OSHA will have less staff and do fewer inspections next year.”

Another factor to consider is how the forthcoming arrival of new appointees could influence spending and policy priorities.

“This looks largely like a placeholder budget request which is to be expected since the new administration has not had a change to get deeply engaged in the agency’s activities,” Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg this week.

The perspective brought to work by individuals running OSHA will be more important than the final dollar amount, Freedman added. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, whom Trump nominated after Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration, has been on the job less than a month.

 

OSHA to delay Form 300A electronic submission requirement

By: May 18th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Certain employers have been preparing for a new requirement that they submit an annual Form 300A, which summarizes work-related injuries and illnesses, to the government electronically by July 1, 2017. But that deadline is likely to change.

Citing an email from OSHA, labor attorney Tressi L. Cordaro with the firm Jackson Lewis P.C., wrote in a blog post Wednesday that officials had announced they intend to delay the compliance date, which had been set by a final rule issued a year ago.

“Currently, we do not have any additional information about the timeline for this,” the email says. “We will let you know as soon as additional information, including a proposed extension date, is available.”

An OSHA spokesperson confirmed Thursday that there’s still no information available on the new timeline being proposed, but he noted that an announcement should be forthcoming in the Federal Register. A recent update to OSHA’s webpage explaining the rule confirms the delay and states that the administration is not currently accepting submissions electronically.

The new rule requires certain employers—including establishments with 250 or more employees and establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries, such as ambulatory healthcare services, general medical and surgical hospitals, and other healthcare settings—to take the injury and illness data they’re already required to collect and then submit it to OSHA electronically, with some of the data to be released publicly online.

“Behavioral economics tells us that making injury information publicly available will ‘nudge’ employers to focus on safety,” the OSHA website explains. “And, as we have seen in many examples, more attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many workers, and will ultimately help the employer’s bottom line as well.”

Interestingly, the delay comes as multiple lawsuits challenging the final rule’s legality wind their way through federal court. Last month, a judge overseeing one of the cases set a deadline in the court proceedings for July 5, indicating that he would not rule on the rule’s legality before its compliance date, Bloomberg reported.

Cordaro declined to comment beyond her blog post, citing the fact that her team represents multiple petitioners challenging the rule.

Bloomberg reported that the rule would affect about 466,000 employers nationwide.

Form 300A

Form 300A

This week: OSHA emphasizes fall prevention

By: May 8th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

A failure to provide workers with adequate fall protection is the violation cited most frequently by OSHA inspectors. Each year, hundreds of construction workers are killed in falls, which is why OSHA and its partners set aside this week, May 8-12, as a “National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down” to encourage employers to pause during the workday and revisit safety topics.

Given the high number of fall-related fatalities among construction workers, that industry serves as the natural focus of this week’s events, but the stand-down carries worthwhile reminders for those overseeing safety in healthcare settings as well.

Late last year, OSHA cited Jersey City Medical Center RWJ Barnabas Health with one willful and four serious safety violations, proposing a penalty of nearly $175,000 after a maintenance worker was electrocuted while working on a 6-foot A-frame ladder. The worker, who fractured multiple bones and sustained a subdural hematoma, died from the injuries more than two weeks after the fall. Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office, called the death “tragic” and “preventable.”

Employers who hope to prevent fall-related injuries and deaths are encouraged this week to have conversations with their workers about hazards and protection. To that end, OSHA assembled a website, www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/. The free resources available on the site include fall-prevention training guides in English and Spanish and a downloadable version of Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely, a document that details proper ladder usage.

Will you pause this week for a fall prevention stand-down? If not, you should consider working these resources into your future training sessions. The emphasis may be only a week long, but the hazards exist year-round.

OSHA3625

When does workplace violence violate OSHA’s General Duty Clause?

By: May 5th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

It remains unclear whether the feds will follow California’s lead in implementing an occupational health and safety standard on workplace violence prevention in healthcare settings, despite a largely positive response from those who commented on OSHA’s recent request for input on the idea.

The federal standard could specify which steps employers must take to protect healthcare workers and impose fines for noncompliance. Even without the nationwide standard, however, it’s already possible for OSHA to penalize healthcare employers anywhere in the country for failing to prevent violence against doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

That possibility comes, of course, from the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires that an employer keep its workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to [its] employees.” But what exactly does it take to support an allegation that an employer whose workers have been victimized by violence should be held accountable, to some degree?

Clarence Webster III, JD, with the firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, addressed that question this week in a blog post, citing a directive that took effect in January. The directive guides OSHA officials on when and how to issue citations in response to workplace violence, Webster explained.

“In determining whether to initiate an inspection, the Directive sets forth a list of known risk factors, none of which would individually trigger an inspection,” Webster wrote.

These risk factors include employment in healthcare, working alone or in small numbers, late-night or early-morning shifts, working in high-crime areas, and others. If your workplace has some of these factors, there are four questions OSHA must answer in the wake of a violent incident to determine if you violated the General Duty clause:

  1. Did the employer fail to keep its workplace free of a foreseeable workplace violence hazard?
  2. Was the hazard explicitly recognized or recognized in a high-risk industry?
  3. Was the hazard causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm?
  4. Was there a feasible and useful means by which to correct the hazard?

Answering “yes” to all four questions above–which align loosely with the four-pronged test articulated last year in a Government Accountability Office report on workplace violence prevention—would tend to support an alleged violation of the General Duty Clause. (An affirmative response to fewer than four of the above questions could still warrant a “hazard alert letter” with recommendations to improve safety.)

For any employers looking for practical steps to minimize risks, there is an 11-page list in Appendix A of the directive. It outlines engineering and administrative controls, and it provides a table with recommended applications in various healthcare settings.

Webster said one of the keys to preventing workplace violence is making sure that your employees understand that they should report potentially violent behavior, not tolerate it.

“However, when you get to the suggested engineering and administrative controls,” Webster added, “be sure to balance them against other laws governing your workplace, including state, local, and federal privacy laws and safety and building codes and standards.”

For more on the prospect of a federal OSHA standard on workplace violence prevention in healthcare, see the June edition of HCPro’s Briefings on Hospital Safety newsletter.

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