Author Archive for: Steve MacArthur

Ask the expert: Safety training in a medical office

October 15th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: How often does safety training (bloodborne pathogen, hazardous materials, respiratory, etc.) need to be done within a medical office?

A: Strictly speaking, the only education pieces with specific recurring frequencies are the bloodborne pathogens education and respiratory protection education, which are required to be provided prior to initial work assignment and then annually thereafter.

Also, if there’s an expectation that folks in your office would use fire extinguishers as part of the fire response plan, then there is an annual requirement for extinguisher education as well (OSHA doesn’t specify the nature of the education, so it could be hands or on by demonstration, which could include a video presentation).

Interestingly enough, there is no OSHA  requirement for annual fire drills, but if your medical office operates under the auspices of a hospital, there is an annual requirement for fire drills (and to be quite honest, it would have to be considered an excellent practice to conduct fire drills at least annually).

Other education concerns such as hazard communications and emergency response are required prior to initial work assignment and then whenever there is a change to procedures. There are a number of other potential education concerns that are promulgated as a function of General Industry; to that end, you may find the information on the following webpage ( to be of use, depending on your circumstance.

– Answered by Steve MacArthur, consultant for The Greeley Company, a division of HCPro, and author of Mac’s Safety Space.

Ask the expert: Should biohazard bins be kept behind closed doors?

August 27th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: We are based in Colorado. Do our red bins for biohazard waste need to be locked in a closet or if it is OK to keep them behind a closed door that is not necessarily locked?

A: There is no specific OSHA regulation that requires medical waste to be locked in a closet, and in looking at the Colorado state public health regulations, it appears that there is no specific requirement to keep medical waste in a locked closet on that count either. If there is a relationship with a local hospital, it may be worth checking with them to see if there is a specific requirement (if there is one anywhere, it would be in the state regulations as there are none at the national/federal level), but it looks like a closed door will suffice.

Now, I will complicate things just a little bit by saying that if you have clinic settings that provide care and services to at risk populations like pediatric and/or behavioral health patients, then you might be better off locking the closet to ensure their safety. It’s definitely a judgment call, but there are certainly instances in which erring on the side of caution is more than appropriate.

–Steve MacArthur

Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant for The Greeley Company, a division of HCPro. He brings 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro’s Hospital Safety Director’s Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety.

Dry your eyes – but don’t dry those wipes!

May 30th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

A quick note of interest from the survey world

A recent survey resulted in a hospital being cited under the Infection Control standards (IC.02.02.01 on low-level disinfection, to be exact). In two instances, someone had the temerity to forget to close the cover on a container of disinfectant wipes. Can you believe such risky behavior still exists in our 24/7 world of infection prevention? It’s true, my friend, it is true!

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In your eyes – the light, the heat … the chemicals?

January 13th, 2012 Email This Post Print This Post

A couple of weeks ago, a client was asking me about who should be performing the weekly checks of eyewash stations. A clinical surveyor consultant had given them the impression that this should be the responsibility of maintenance staff. Now, I’m not sure if this direction was framed as a “must” or a “would be a good idea,” but what I can tell you is that there is no specific regulatory guidance in any direction on this topic. I do, however, have a fairly succinct opinion on the topic—yeah, I know you’re surprised to hear that!—which I will now share with you.

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Transporting blood and urine samples

April 22nd, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: A question about transporting blood and urine samples. Do the samples need to be in a biohazard bag when transported either by hand, on a cart, or via a tube system that can go both to the lab and the pharmacy?

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Wiping out a surveyor’s MSDS Wite-Out mistake

September 21st, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

I recently received a fairly common question with a slight twist to it. Many people wonder if common household items such as Wite-Out© need to have a material safety data sheet (MSDS) on file. Although OSHA doesn’t require an MSDS in this case, this particular person said that a Joint Commission surveyor indicated otherwise.

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Safety considerations for electrical receptacles on metal stands

August 13th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: Is it feasible to place a small device that is plugged into an electrical receptacle on a metal stand? The device is for urodynamics and measures the patient’s volume of urine and the flow rate. When I look at how it is set up, I feel there could be a chance of an electrical shock to the operator or the patient if a short develops. Please direct me to the code or the proper reference.

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Emergency evacuation practices

August 10th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: We had a discussion at one of our clinic safety meetings about the practice of placing an “X” with chalk on the patient exam rooms in the event of a fire to identify which rooms were checked for patients before exiting the building. Is this still a recommended practice for evacuation? Do fire fighting personnel look for these “X” marks? Some of our clinics still do this while others do not. We would like to standardize our clinics on this issue.

A: This one of those concerns for which there is really no correct or incorrect response and ultimately should hinge on a cooperative review of the practice with your local fire departments.

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Watch your fish tanks for waterborne illnesses

June 25th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

If you’ve ever seen Finding Nemo, you’ll know that fish tanks can get right nasty very quickly if they are not well-cared for.

That said, there’s not a ton of specific guidance on this regard; even the CDC Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities uses no stronger dictate than “avoid” when it comes to fish tanks:

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Don’t just educate but also test the effectiveness of your safety program

May 25th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Providing safety education is only half the job. The other half is making sure people understand what they have been taught and then put into practice. But how do you measure this?

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Exploring the regulatory nuances of an electronic MSDS database

May 7th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Many healthcare facilities have switched to an electronic material safety data sheet (MSDS) system because of its ease of use and functionality. I often get questions about having a backup, including paper copies, and what regulators like OSHA or The Joint Commission would say.

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Getting the lead out: Radiation aprons and hazardous waste

March 27th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

I found myself in an e-mail conversation recently about the disposal of lead radiation aprons and whether there is a hazardous waste or EPA aspect to this activity.

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