If you’ve been watching the news coming out of Safetyland, you know that OSHA last week announced a change in its rules on the reporting of workplace deaths and severe injuries, requiring that employers must report any fatalities within eight hours of the accident or incident beginning January 1.
It’s not much of a surprise, and the new rule has been anticipated for some time. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels explained that work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye will now have to be reported within 24 hours under the new rule.
Previously, OSHA regulations required such reports to be filed only if three or more workers were killed or hospitalized while on the job, and reporting single hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye was not required.
I’ll be following up on this story in the newsletters, and I’d like to know how this will affect your facilities. Will you be doing anything different? Are you for it or against it? And will this new rule make the healthcare workplace any safer?
In our upcoming October issue of Medical Environment Update, our experts tell ghoulish tales of lessons they came a little too close to learning in their careers in safety. If you’ve been in the safety field for any length of time, you’ve heard the warnings of all the things that can go wrong in the workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to live the consequences of a truly bad accident—something that can maim you for life or change your life or career forever.
The reality, however, is that over the course of a career that can span 20 or 30 years, chances are that you will experience a scary close call—whether it was caused by carelessness by yourself or a co-worker or circumstances beyond your control.
We almost poisoned the water system – When you’re at home, it’s taken for granted that you can pretty much pour anything down the drain, because chances are you aren’t pouring poison away. In a lab or medical office, that might be a different story, and if you aren’t careful you can pollute or even poison the water supply.
“When I first became a safety officer, we got notified right away that the effluent from our hospital was bad,” says Dan Scungio, MT(ASCP), SLS, Laboratory Safety Officer for Sentara Healthcare, a multi-hospital system in the Tidewater region of Virginia. “Back in those days it was OK to pour things down the sink, but you have to do it right, because the local wastewater authority is very specific about what you can put down the drain. They want certain bacteria living in the water system and a low pH will kill it.”
Chemicals almost burned the maintenance guy – You’ll hear it over and over again: wear your PPE when you are handling hazardous materials, especially eye protection. Why? Because you never know when an accidental spill might get in your eyes.
In a hospital she worked in, Marge McFarlane, PhD, MT(ASCP), CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP, principal of Superior Performance, LLC, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, says a maintenance worker was called to investigate a water leak in a ceiling. When he opened the ceiling tiles—without eye protection—it turned out to be Potassium Hydroxide, a chemical with a pH of about 13 used in radiology processing in a lab directly above him. Apparently, workers had cut plastic corners off film being developed, which allowed the chemical to overflow in the drain above and leak through the ceiling.
“Talk about scary, because it will burn your eyes out,” she says. “It’s a very caustic material. He was just responding to a routine call.”
Someone torched the lab courier’s car – Most labs and medical offices take advantage of a courier service of some sort to transport specimens and records, but no one expects them to take a joyride and end up in a fireball. That’s exactly what happened in Scungio’s system, when a thief took off with the courier’s car.
“To take a short cut he left his car open and running while running into a doctor’s office, and the car got stolen with patient specimens and reports,” he says, adding that the compromised patient data was a major HIPAA violation. “If that wasn’t enough he took it into a field and torched the car, and threw the records out in a field. These are real stories; this really happened. Don’t leave your cars running or unlocked. It wasn’t pretty.”
The following is a guest commentary from Linda Gylland, MLS (ASCP), QLS, a laboratory safety officer with Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.
Being a large healthcare system, many sets of eyeballs are necessary in order to have a ‘culture of safety.’ It is important to get feedback from as many departments/locations as possible on a routine basis.
Quarterly safety committee meetings bring these members together to discuss problems, policies, injuries, hazardous chemicals, questions and educational opportunities. Since our healthcare system has mandatory online education, safety courses which are annually being updated by our education department are consistently completed by all staff.
Labs are not always included in these meetings, and in order to get an overall picture and be connected as a whole, it is important to be a part of “the group” and to be “in the know.” Something is always gained by ‘being there’ and voicing concerns to represent hundreds of lab staff. Being a lab safety officer is a lonely position; questions are being asked from all directions and other people oftentimes need to be included and involved. All answers are not immediately known; it is helpful to have a group to confide in and get helpful input. It’s like having a pen pal!
With input from an organized safety committee, an annual safety competency is sent to all lab staff employees. This may include searching policies for answers, emergency response, waste disposal and SDS online. The last question of the competency always includes “Do you feel your safety needs are being met?” The lab safety officer compiles these questions and discusses them at our meeting, or sooner if necessary. With all departments working together- clinical lab safety and hospital safety- it is possible to have a “culture of safety” regardless of your size.
Hi folks –
We here at HCPro are in the planning stages for our 2015 schedule of books for the safety market. I would like to invite you to participate in a very short, 10-question survey that will help us determine what topics are important to our customers. I would appreciate it if you would take a moment to fill it out for me when you have a moment.
Here is the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2GSB56K
Thank you so much!
September is traditionally the month when the nation’s students go back to school. So for the upcoming September issue of Medical Environment Update, we thought it would be a good time to think about lifelong learning in the safety profession, which is constantly changing.
We asked some safety experts: if you could teach the newer folks in the safety field a thing or two about the job, what would it be?
“That idea didn’t work last time we tried.” – Veteran safety experts have seen a lot of things come and go in the world of healthcare safety. Some things are with us still and some aren’t. They will tell you about the days when sucking blood up into a pipette with your mouth was an acceptable way to transfer blood, and about the days when wearing gloves was a personal decision. Then again, Hepatitis and HIV weren’t as big a concern back then, either.
“Safety comes first, sometimes.” – Human nature being what it is, we usually look for the easiest, cheapest, and quickest way to complete tasks. In the workplace, that can lead to injuries, especially if strict protocols and safety procedures aren’t adhered to, or if safety equipment isn’t used. Consider the fact that the majority of injuries suffered by healthcare workers from slips, trips and falls are caused by improperly lifting heavy loads, wearing the wrong footwear, or just simply being careless while rushing through a task.
“Accept what you don’t know.” – Medical training programs only teach so much, and there’s a big difference between what you learn in the books and on-the-job experience. Many veterans in the healthcare safety field will tell you that much of what you learn will be in the trenches, making mistakes and watching others go about their jobs. Don’t be afraid to be a lifelong student.
“But study up, and take notes.” – Your time as a student will be short lived, however, as you will at some point need to step up and be the one in the know, the one who teaches, and the one responsible for the answers others don’t know. You should develop a habit for taking detailed notes, keeping good files and records, and knowing where to find the answers—especially if an OSHA inspector comes looking for them.
“We’re all in this together.” – You may be the safety expert, but you are only one person. Many veteran safety experts will tell you that they can only do their jobs properly if every person under them (and above them, for that matter) is committed to working within a culture of safety. For that reason, it is extremely important early on in your safety career to establish a good rapport with your staff, model good behaviors, and find people within your facility that you can trust to be your eyes (and your mouth) when you can’t be there.
“There are so many lessons, but I think a really important message is that it is everyone’s responsibility,” says Anne Newman, RN, Nurse Manager, Employee Health Services, Meriter – UnityPoint Health, Madison, Wisconsin.
“Your job is yucky.” – We all take for granted that when we visit the doctor, we will be cared for in an environment that is free from germs and generally clean. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Improper disinfection in hospitals and medical clinics is one of the reason that one in four patients get an infection they didn’t come in with.
“I am shocked at the things I see in doctors’ offices,” says Kathy Rooker, owner of Columbus Healthcare & Safety Consultants in Canal Winchester, Ohio, and who also specializes in performing mock healthcare inspections.
Check out these and other lessons in the September issue of MEU, coming out soon.