Don’t fall prey to imposters peddling OSHA posters

By: July 10th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

People posing as OSHA compliance officers have been trying to dupe employers into paying for posters they can get from the government for free, the Utah Labor Commission warned recently.

The scamsters have contacted Utah businesses in person, on the phone, and even in writing, threatening inspections, citations, and fines, unless the employers immediately pay for consultation and training services and the posters. These tactics have popped up in other states as well.

“We encourage employers to research and ask questions about the companies or individuals offering to sell OSHA posters,” said Utah Labor Commissioner Jaceson Maughan in a statement. “They should also know that we provide the posters at no charge.”

The posters, which businesses must display in a prominent location, are available for download from the commission’s website. Real OSHA compliance officers in Utah carry identification and do not collect money, the commission noted.

Last year, a Florida man used his company to dupe newly opened small businesses out of at least $1.3 million, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The company sold free posters for $179.99 to $189.99, then made it difficult for customers to obtain refunds, according to the FTC’s complaint.

Jobs report: American healthcare sector keeps growing amid uncertainty

By: July 7th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

While the number of people working in construction, manufacturing, and several other major industries held steady last month, the American healthcare sector continued to grow, adding 37,000 jobs in June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced today.

That figure outperformed the average number of healthcare jobs gained monthly all of last year and so far this year, the BLS announcement noted. (The economy added 32,000 healthcare jobs per month, on average, in 2016 and 24,000 jobs per month in the first half of 2017.)

The number of people working in hospitals grew by 12,000 in June, but employment in ambulatory healthcare services grew even faster, with 26,000 jobs added. This reflects a decades-long shift in how and where physicians and their staffs care for patients. More services are being offered in outpatient settings, and some community hospitals, especially in rural areas, have fallen on hard times.

The shifting landscape impacts everything from the way clinics ensure basic environmental cleaning to how health systems strategize with regard to employment and market share. And, of course, it impacts the way OSHA and other regulatory bodies go about protecting workers and the public.

Across all industries, the U.S. economy added 222,000 jobs in June, beating both expectations and recent monthly averages. This bird’s-eye view of the economy, however, misses much of the nuance on the ground level, where many hiring managers are on unsure footing. Healthcare employers, especially, are watching Washington, where the Republican-controlled Congress and White House are struggling to finalize a budget and healthcare plan, as The New York Times reported.

“This is an unprecedented level of political uncertainty,” William E. Spriggs, chief economist for the AFL-CIO union, told the Times. “That is creating a drag on the economy.”

Hiring at medical labs and nursing homes, for instance, has been on the decline, Spriggs said, attributing the slowdown to the number of unknowns in the future of the U.S. healthcare system.

For the latest news and advice in healthcare safety and compliance, be sure to follow HCPro’s line of products to keep you informed and thriving.

OSHA delays controversial electronic recordkeeping rule

By: June 27th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Compliance date scheduled for next week bumped five months down the road.

I mentioned last month that OSHA officials had signaled their intent to delay a new electronic recordkeeping rule that’s being challenged in more than one federal courtroom. Today, less than a week before the July 1 compliance date, they formalized that proposal.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the new compliance date would be December 1, giving OSHA five months more to review “questions of law and policy.”

The rule would require about 466,000 employers nationwide to file their Form 300A summaries of workplace injuries and illnesses with OSHA electronically. It has been controversial in large part because employers dislike the idea that OSHA plans to publish some of their injury and illness data online.

Employers have also opposed the rule’s prohibition of incentive and testing programs associated with injury reporting, as Bloomberg BNA’s Bruce Rolfsen explained. Workers groups contend that ending such programs will protect employees from being ostracized by their employers for voicing safety concerns.

The deadline to submit public comment on the proposed deadline extension is July 13.

‘Don’t Hold The Door’: Boston hospital uses multimedia approach to reinforce safety training

By: June 23rd, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston is well-acquainted with the dangers an unauthorized person can pose when granted access to restricted areas. The facility suffered unflattering headlines earlier this year when the public learned that 42-year-old Cheryl Wang had bluffed her way into five ORs and other patient care areas late last year by posing as a doctor-in-training, despite having been dismissed from her surgical residency program.

Wang’s case—which brought an unsettling reminder of the 2015 security lapse that enabled a disgruntled man to corner and kill a BWH doctor in an exam room—drew attention to an extremely common security vulnerability known as “tailgating” or “piggybacking.” When walking through a doorway, it’s common courtesy to hold the door for whoever is behind you. That’s a problem, however, if the person behind you doesn’t have permission to go where you’re going.

To reinforce the lesson that every hospital employee has a responsibility to help keep unauthorized people out of restricted areas, BWH produced instructional videos that depict disturbingly mundane security lapses. The two dramatizations, titled “Be Aware” and “Don’t Hold The Door,” will be shown to all 18,000 of BWH’s employees.

“We intended for the videos to be provocative, to invoke a strong reaction, so that they would be memorable,” said Erin McDonough, BWH’s chief communication officer, in a statement.

One video depicts two workers chatting as they return to their stations from a coffee break, unaware that an unknown woman has followed them onto a restricted elevator. From there, the woman gains access to a maternity ward to abduct a newborn. The other shows a worker in scrubs politely holding the door for an unknown man.

Be Aware from BWH Public Affairs on Vimeo.

“Closing a door to someone feels uncomfortable and impolite, and it contradicts what many of us have been taught from a young age,” McDonough said. “We need our staff to know the potentially dangerous consequences of enabling people who do not have permission to access restricted areas—whether consciously or unconsciously—and give them tools that empower them to take action.”

The two videos are the centerpiece of BWH’s safety campaign, but they are buttressed by a multi-pronged approach that includes the following:

  • Signage. The points where unauthorized access is most likely to occur, including some 1,200 card scanners throughout BWH’s facilities, will be labeled with signs to remind workers to be aware of who’s coming with them.
  • Reminder cards. Workers will be issued additional cards that bear the slogan “Stop, Challenge, Assist,” with a phone number for hospital security, as a reminder to use their privileged access with caution and care.
  • Policies. Employees who are followed by an unauthorized person are now required to abide by two updated policies: Either question the person directly, or contact security to do so. There’s no option to merely dismiss the unauthorized access as nonthreatening.
  • Training. After hospital employees screen the two videos, they will role-play related scenarios with a security team, then follow-up to session with a Q-and-A to discuss what they learned.

In addition to training its own staff, BWH has opted to share the components of this campaign far and wide—a helpful gesture, considering that tailgating and piggybacking are a safety consideration in every healthcare facility.

“People who work in the healthcare setting have a natural inclination to help others,” said Dave Corbin, BWH’s director of security and parking, in the statement. “Our campaign emphasizes that being aware is one of the best ways for them to ensure the wellbeing of patients, their families and each other.”

Don't Hold the Door from BWH Public Affairs on Vimeo.

Worker sleep cycles could be a safety concern

By: June 22nd, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

When researchers asked nearly 180,000 workers about their sleeping habits a few years ago, they found that those in healthcare rank among the top occupational groups that sleep too little. About 40% of healthcare workers reported sleeping less than seven hours per night.

Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides exhibited the highest rates of short sleep duration among healthcare professionals. More than 43% of them reported getting less than their recommended share of shuteye, according to research published by the CDC earlier this year. And those numbers could pose a potential safety risk at work.

“Workers in occupations where alternative shiftwork is common, such as production, healthcare, and some transportation jobs, were more likely to have a higher adjusted prevalence of short sleep duration,” study author Taylor M. Shockey, MPH, said in a press release.

“Short sleep duration has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as to safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries,” Shockey added. “This research suggests that there are occupational differences in sleep duration making occupation an important factor to consider in sleep research and interventions.”

That’s why the National Safety Council featured fatigue among four key topics to highlight during June, which is National Safety Month, offering safety professionals and the public access to social media graphics and downloadable tip-sheets to promote awareness. (That’s also why the topic was featured in the April edition of HCPro’s Medical Environment Update.)

Workers who sleep between seven and 10 hours per night have shown significantly lower estimated annual injury rates than workers who sleep less. The results of one survey published in 2010 showed that workers who slept less than five hours per night suffered more than three times as many injuries as those who slept enough.

slide-15-FatiguePanel-presentation

Kim Olszewski, DNP, CRNP, COHN-S/CM, FAAOHN, vice president of Mid-State Occupational Health Services in Lewisburg, Pa., said employers are taking notice of the dangers fatigue can pose, Safety+Health magazine reported.

“The key is the proactive piece,” Olszewski said, “driving it from the top down, talking about fatigue, how it can be managed, how it impacts all aspects—not just work.”

Workplace violence citation settled, but debate rages on

By: June 19th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

One of the largest public hospitals in the country persuaded OSHA to back off of a citation it had issued regarding the hospital’s workplace violence prevention program, but debate over the program’s adequacy rages on.

Bergen Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Paramus, N.J., pushed back against criticism from a former OSHA official who described the resolution of BRMC’s case as a “cave-in” by the Labor Department, as I mentioned last week. Since then, the former official has responded to the pushback—and discovered that the hospital’s attorney is readily willing to spar about it on Twitter.

Jordan Barab, who served as deputy assistant OSHA secretary during the Obama administration, responded in a blog Friday to BRMC’s claim that he must think “that even a single instance of workplace violence” means a facility’s prevention program is inadequate.

Not true,” Barab wrote, “and BRMC unfortunately had far more than a single case of workplace violence. In fact, the union reports that so far this year, 62 incidents have been reported to a workplace violence committee.”

Barab said he stands by his contention that the hospital, despite fending off the OSHA citation, has serious workplace violence problems. He mentioned the BRMC dispute Thursday evening in a tweet: “They hate me. They really hate me.”

That prompted a response Friday morning from Eric J. Conn, an attorney BRMC hired in 2015 to contest the OSHA citation. “Just want honesty,” Conn wrote. “Hospital PROVED it didn’t violate the law, yet Obama-era OSHA reps who weren’t there to see the proof still slander them.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Hospital calls criticism from former OSHA official ‘ill-informed commentary’

By: June 14th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

I came across an interesting (and lengthy) post last week on Jordan Barab’s “Confined Space” blog about a hospital that successfully defended itself against an OSHA citation. Barab, a former OSHA official himself, had some harsh words for Bergen Regional Medical Center (BRMC) in Paramus, N.J., going so far as to accuse BRMC of trying to revise history.

“[T]he hospital’s contention that its workplace violence prevention program ‘has once again been found to be compliant’ is false,” Barab wrote. He pointed to a written warning OSHA sent BRMC in 2014, followed by a citation in 2015, as evidence that the hospital’s program had been deemed inadequate under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.

Since the blog post accused BRMC of misrepresenting the facts, I reached out to hospital spokeswoman Donnalee Corrieri for her response. She noted that Barab had left OSHA before a key stage in the discovery process, so his opinions appear to be based on information as alleged in 2015, rather than the full picture as uncovered throughout months of litigation.

“After considering all of the evidence, which OSHA did not have the benefit of when it [made] its initial allegation, OSHA obviously concluded that the initial citation was misplaced, and agreed to withdraw the citation related to workplace violence in its entirety,” Corrieri told me in an email.

“Mr. Barab’s ill-informed commentary seems to stem from his view that even a single instance of workplace violence means an employer’s [workplace violence prevention program] is somehow insufficient,” Corrieri added. “However, OSHA’s [workplace violence] Guidelines for healthcare acknowledge that ‘not every incident can be prevented.’ The reality is, the Medical Center consistently experiences fewer incidents of violence than its peer medical systems in New Jersey and nationally.”

For more on this, read my article in this week’s free weekly Hospital Safety Insider e-newsletter.

Unions try to help defend OSHA rule; Labor Dept. objects

By: June 9th, 2017 Email This Post Print This Post

Defendant joins plaintiffs in opposing third-party motion to intervene

Two unions offered to help the U.S. Department of Labor defend an Obama-era OSHA rule being challenged in federal court. But the government has formally objected, arguing that the unions have no right to step into the legal dispute between it and private industry groups.

The move has stoked speculation that the Trump administration could be looking to further relax enforcement of existing regulations. That worries United Steelworkers (USW) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

“In this case, there is no guarantee that the government will defend the New Rule forcefully in this Court,” the unions wrote in their March motion to intervene, noting that an executive order signed the month prior calls for a general reduction in federal regulation.

The rule in question, which was finalized last year, requires about 466,000 employers to file injury and illness logs with OSHA electronically, so the agency could then publish the data online. Industry groups filed multiple lawsuits, and federal officials said last month they would postpone a July 5 deadline indefinitely—a delay the unions likely saw as an omen.

“There is even the possibility that the new Administration might attempt to use this litigation as a vehicle to weaken, rather than to uphold, the New Rule,” the unions wrote in their March motion. That could be described as a “sue-and-settle” tactic to change the rule while bypassing certain procedural steps typically required for such changes, they said.

Government attorneys responded by acknowledging the unions’ concern that the regulation could be softened or abolished.

“But that argument is a red herring,” the government wrote last month. “Any changes to the Rule would need to be made through the rulemaking process, not this litigation.”

The unions seemed pleased, though not totally placated, by the government’s commitment to traditional rulemaking channels.

“We are heartened to learn that OSHA accepts the fact that, under applicable law, any changes to the Rule can only be made following notice and comment rulemaking and not through this litigation,” the unions wrote in reply June 8. “But, the distinct possibility remains that OSHA’s defense of the Rule may not be as robust on some issues as on others.”

Randy Rabinowitz, an attorney representing the unions, told Bloomberg BNA that she could not recall any other case in which the Labor Department declined help from a union seeking to assist in defending an OSHA rule.

The unions made two parallel arguments in support of their motion to intervene: (1) they have a legal right to do so, and (2) the court has the discretion and should permit them to do so. The plaintiffs objected to both claims; the government objected only to the first claim and took no position on the second.

Judge David L. Russell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has given no indication of his timeline for a ruling on the motion.

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.

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