Seeking input on waste management book

By: January 27th, 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 May, will be a book about hazardous waste handling and management in hospitals, with an eye on regulatory compliance and worker safety.

As you may know, the EPA is considering proposed new regulations governing pharmaceutical waste. Rules currently under review include banning pharmaceutical flushing and labeling of materials that produce hazardous waste. Also, with a rise in unique infectious diseases such as Ebola in healthcare, many hospitals are confused about proper disposal, especially as many trash haulers will not accept Class A medical waste, and such waste is subject to ever-stricter incineration standards.

In addition, as regulations become stronger, and hospitals not in compliance can be fined by the day, the disposal of hazardous wastes in a hospital become much more confusing and crucial to follow. We’d like to do a book that helps you wade through the regulations, explains the different kinds of waste generated, and give you tips on how you can reduce waste in your hospital and save money.

There is not much out there, and most of what is written dates to the 1990s, which indicates most recent information hospitals have to go on is 20 years old. Most hospitals are governed under the RCRA Act 1976 for waste disposal, and are governed by the amount per month of waste generated. It behooves hospitals to cut the amount of medical waste generated to cut costs.

In our 2015 Safety Customer Survey, 63% said they were interested in a book about waste reduction, specifically about decreasing needs for red bags, EPA generator requirements, reducing hazardous waste, and less hazardous alternatives for commonly-used products.

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

Want to be an author for HCPro?

By: January 13th, 2016 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi folks –

As you know, from time to time, I ask you for your input on books that the safety market at HCPro will be working on. After all, we are trying to help you do your jobs better and you’re the people who know best what you need.

Below is a list of the book subjects that we have in development for this year. This is in direct response to the feedback we have gotten from customer surveys, market research and trends, as well as a good look at the books we’ve done in the past and felt that needed a re-write.

What we don’t have are authors, and that’s where I need your help. To get these books written, I need to get the ball rolling talking to subject experts who know a things or two about the topics below.

If you are interested in writing a book for us, or know someone who is qualified, please drop me a line at You don’t have to be an experienced author, and this is a great opportunity to get your name out there on a book cover – and you will be compensated.


Drug Diversion Prevention – Preventing theft of controlled substances at hospitals has always been of paramount importance, but it is still a big problem, as evidenced by the Sept. 28 Justice Department settlement, requiring Massachusetts General Hospital to pay $2.3 million to resolve allegations that lax controls enabled MGH employees to divert controlled substances such as oxycodone for personal use. The book could discuss components of a good prevention plan including things like the establishment of an internal drug diversion team; the creation of a full-time drug diversion compliance officer position; mandatory training of all staff with access to controlled substances, how to identify the signs and symptoms of substance abuse; enhanced diversion monitoring by supervisors and management; annual external audits; and increased physical controls of controlled substances, including limiting and monitoring access to automated dispensing machines through fingerprint identification and other security measures.


PPE Handbook for Pandemics – 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.


Hazardous Waste Disposal and Management – As the EPA regulations become stronger (Proposed new generator rule could pass any day), hospitals not in compliance can be fined by the day, the disposal of hazardous wastes in a hospital become much more confusing and crucial to follow. We’d like to do a book that helps you wade through the regulations, explains the different kinds of waste generated, and give you tips on how you can reduce waste in your facility.


Proper cleansing/disinfection of GI duodenoscopes – A book about the origins of the problem, what the risks are, how to overhaul your facility’s reprocessing program, as well as the fines and lawsuits that can follow the outbreak of a major infection at hospitals. This book could contain checklists and lots of important information about how to design an effective scope reprocessing team and procedures, as well as how to train your staff who may be responsible for cleaning them.

I look forward to hearing from you!

John Palmer

Safety Success Down Any Path

By: January 7th, 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.

For eight years, while performing lab safety audits, I have cited a couple of labs for having keyboards raised. The little legs on the rear of the computer keyboard were up and there was no wrist rest in place. Ergonomically, this is an unsound practice, and it is one item on my safety audit checklist. Needless to say, managers do not view this as a big lab safety issue- not when faced with things like PPE issues, out of date safety checks and various more immediate problems. However, a raised keyboard can create problems for those who perform at the computer often. These problems may not show up until later in life, but the stresses on the wrist of a hand working constantly at an angle (rather than in a straight line as is best) can be serious for that employee.

Last month, while conducting a safety audit, the manager asked me how her lab was doing so far. I reviewed with her the items I had cited, and one was that pesky keyboard issue. I stepped out of the department, and when I returned, I found a pile of keyboard legs on my laptop with a note: “Now you can never cite for this again!”

You may not consider this a major safety victory, but it did illustrate a couple of points I have been teaching safety professionals for years.

1: The secret of a successful lab safety professional is that he or she never goes away- they never quit on an issue.

2: If there is only one person promoting safety in the lab, then that is enough to make a difference.

Point 1 is easier to see in this illustration. When I first began performing these safety audits in the labs, I was citing many areas for that particular ergonomics issue (among others). Some of the lab managers I work with strongly support safety, and others do not, but most were in agreement- this was not a big deal and they were not going to worry about it. I persisted. I cited it every year. I did not give up. I did not go away.

This year, when the manager removed the keyboard “feet,” the story spread, and two other managers did the same. It was a minor safety victory- but it was a victory nonetheless.

Point 2 is a bit more obscure, but it is very important. I have worked with some lab safety professionals whose manager does not support safety in the department. They are trying to make a difference in their safety culture and they feel alone and useless. I strongly believe that the lab safety program will have faster success with management and medical director support, more members on the safety team is definitely of benefit. However, I also believe that one person alone can make a difference in the lab’s safety culture.

For the keyboard story, I was the only one who seemed to care about that one safety issue. I made no headway on it for eight years. Success came (albeit slowly) even though I was the only person talking about it. You might be the only person talking about safety on your lab, and you might be repeating yourself often. You might not see it yet, but you are making a difference.

As a lab safety professional, you may come to a fork in the road on your way to safety improvement. The path to the left could be a road of persistence- you may be fighting the same battle over and over again. To the right is the lonely road where only you seem to be supporting the lab safety initiatives. You might even take the middle road where both challenges occur.

No matter the path you may be forced to take in your work place, the same tactics will assist you in navigating to safety success. Be patient, be persistent, and keep talking about safety.

Seeking input on lab safety training book

By: December 15th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi folks –

We are working on a rewrite of a popular book with our lab folks, Lab Safety Made Simple, that was done in 2006 by Terry Jo Gile.

If you know the book, you know that it helps laboratory directors facing increasing pressure from OSHA, the Joint Commission, COLA,  and CAP to train frontline staff on safety compliance every year. Safety compliance training not only fulfills annual regulatory requirements, but also helps to maintain a safe work environment, protect your facility’s bottom line, and avoid fines or fees from major regulators.

The book is packed with tips, tools, games, activities, and case studies, Lab Safety Training Made Simple features training methods culled from lab experts in the field. It provides guidance on how to design successful training for employees of various ages, learning styles, levels of education, and job experience.

We also are planning to take the book electronic, and provide a lot of the tools in e-reader format for those of you who like to take your information mobile on a tablet or phone.

A lot has changed in 9 years, including GHS and a bunch of things related to waste management and other things.

What I’d like to know is what you want to see in the book? Is there a need for it? What would help you do your job better?

Please drop me a line at with any feedback. Thank you!

John Palmer

The Safety Culture Issue

By: December 10th, 2015 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.

On which side of the aisle do you stand on the subject of change? Things change – or – things never change? The only constant is change – or – it’s always the same old thing? When it comes to the lab safety culture, there are some generally-accepted thoughts. Change is difficult. Change is slow. Change takes persistence and patience.

I’ve heard other things too- people hate change, or people like change as long as they get to be in charge of it. I do believe most of us like change. After all, we change our clothes, we re-arrange our furniture, we remodel a room in our home. It can be exciting- but the tables seem to turn if it’s a change that is forced upon us or that was not our decision. Changing your lab safety culture for the better can be difficult, but it can be done. First, however, you need to know the current culture and goings-on in your lab in order to be able to make a difference.

There are specific ways to determine the safety culture in your lab. An experienced safety professional can do it fairly quickly. For others, especially those who serve in multiple capacities (you know who you are- you’re in charge of lab safety but you’re also the lab manager, or the quality coordinator, or the POCT coordinator) – for them assessing the culture can be difficult, even with years of experience- because you have so many other things on your plate. That can hinder your ability to make quick assessments, but it will not hinder you completely from being able to make a true safety assessment.

To make an assessment you need to use specific tools that you likely have at your disposal. These tools may come in many forms.

Those who have followed my work for some time know about the tool “Safety Eyes.” This is a safety assessment tool I believe to be a “super power” that we all have and need to develop. It is so powerful, in fact, that a developed user can make a fairly good and accurate safety assessment with a quick glance into the department. Performing a lab safety audit is also a very valuable tool that can give you much information about the department’s culture. Perform a complete audit at least annually, and follow-up on the results. Otherwise, you have wasted your time and resources.

Another important safety culture gauge is the use of a written or electronic safety culture assessment. You may be able to tell what’s going on visually and physically by the evidence of your eyes and safety audits- but this tool is a way to actually get into the heads of your staff. What do they think of the culture? What is their opinion of it? What do they think needs improvement, and how would they suggest making those changes? A safety culture assessment can be given to everyone, or it can be used for specific lab groups. Survey the lab staff, survey those responsible for safety, or survey lab leadership. You should perform a lab safety culture assessment at least annually, but it can be done more often as needed.

Lastly, you can use laboratory data that you already collect to see the current state of safety in the department. Analyzing the data you collect about the injuries, accidents and exposures in your laboratory can be very eye-opening, and if you share the data as safety education, you may be able to lower the number of these types of incidents. Look at the chemical and biological spills in the lab. Analyze how they happened and how to prevent a re-occurrence. If you’re the quality coordinator for your lab or system, you know about root cause and common cause analyses. The incidents that occur in the lab that generate a root cause investigation may not always be about lab safety- but it’s possible that investigations show safety is a key factor, and those results should be reviewed with the safety person in the lab.

There is much fact-gathering in the laboratory setting, even regarding the topic of safety. However, all of that data becomes worthless if there is no action taken with it. Audits, injury data, spill information – it can be very valuable information and it can all be used as a tool to help you truly change your lab safety culture. If you use it properly, you can make a change, you can make a difference, and you might just end up on the correct side of the change aisle!

Win $50 off by taking our 2016 books survey!

By: November 4th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

Hi Folks!

From time to time, we ask you to help us out by letting us know what safety products you would like to see HCPro develop. Once again, we’re asking for your feedback that will help us know what information you need and what products will help you do your job better.

Please take a moment to take a quick, 12-question customer survey to help us develop our book titles for 2016. In return, we’ll enter you in a raffle to win $50 off any of our products on the HCPro Marketplace.

Please be sure to include your contact information in the last question to enter the raffle. The winner will be drawn at random and notified by email.

Please click here for the survey.

Healthcare needs to get real about active shooters

By: October 27th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

I had the pleasure yesterday of spending a day at the 2015 annual conference of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which is being held here in my beautiful hometown of Boston.

Being in the safety business, I sat in on a session about active shooter response preparation in healthcare facilities, led by an emergency physician and security director with Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. I didn’t leave with that feeling like we have our collective act together.

Are we really ready for someone to come into our hospitals with a gun, bent on causing mass carnage?

First, let’s start with the numbers. From 2000-2007, there were “only” about 6 shootings a year. From 2007 to today, the numbers jumped to 17 per year.

Many facilities are following the government’s recommendations to “run, hide, and fight” when confronted with a gunman. That’s fine training, if you’re in an office building. Run first, hide when you can, and fight back as a last resort.

But that won’t fly in hospitals and clinics where people are counting on you to help them survive. Poll numbers I heard quoted estimate that at least 40% of healthcare staff wouldn’t leave their patients’ sides, even when confronted with a shooter.

Hospitals need to train their staff to stay alive. Most active shooter incidents end within 7 minutes, and doctors and nurses are then required to turn around and treat the wounded and prevent as much death as possible.

So my question is this: What are you doing to prepare for an active shooter in your facility? Do you have specific plans? Are you training your staff, and what resources are you using?

Please drop me a line at and share your thoughts on this very real threat.


John Palmer


Free Tools Friday: Fire Drill Evaluation Form

By: October 23rd, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

It’s October, folks, which means it’s Fire Prevention Month. What have you done to promote fire safety in your facility?

There’s a good chance you’ve been too busy to schedule or plan an in-service training session for your staff, so we’re going to make it easy for you.

It’s Free Tools Friday, and we have for you a Fire Drill Evaluation Form that you can download and use for your own facility.

Take a half hour to practice your fire alarms, as well as your evacuation procedures and make sure everyone knows where they should go if a fire breaks out. While you’re at it, have the local fire department come in and do a free demonstration of how to use a fire extinguisher.

Also, check out all of our other useful tools here.

Upcoming webcast: Hazardous Waste Disposal in Healthcare: Remain in Compliance and Keep Workers Safe

By: October 21st, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

Complicated rules surround hazardous waste disposal and healthcare facilities want to reduce volume to save costs, but run the risk of not complying with the many regulations and agencies that monitor waste streams.

The EPA, DOT, Joint Commission, and other regulatory agencies require hospitals to adhere to strict guidelines when it comes to the handling and disposal of hazardous medical wastes. Ebola and other high-profile health scares create bio-hazardous wastes that normal trash haulers can’t handle, and pressure hospitals to find alternate ways to handle their waste.

Meanwhile, the EPA is proposing broad new changes that affect the way healthcare facilities process pharmaceuticals and other hazardous wastes that may go into effect in 2016. This webcast will help you know what to expect and when these changes may occur.

Join expert speakers Marge McFarlane, PhD, MT (ASCP), CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP, and waste management and regulatory compliance consultant Darrell J. Oman for a 90-minute webcast, Hazardous Waste Disposal in Healthcare: Remain in Compliance and Keep Workers Safe, that will take place Wednesday, November 11 from 1-2:30 p.m.

During the program, attendees will:

  • Differentiate EPA, DOT, and OSHA compliance requirements for healthcare wastes and waste management programs
  • Link compliance with accreditation organizations (The Joint Commission, DNV, CMS, CAP) with EPA, DOT, and OSHA requirements
  • Describe the five (5) primary steps to implementing a healthcare campus-wide hazardous waste program
  • Compare a facility’s EPA environmental compliance readiness with actual case studies
  • Identify and anticipate upcoming proposed regulatory changes in hazardous waste disposal and how that will affect operations at their facility

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear practical advice and have complex regulations simplified in this program suitable for your whole organization.

For more information and to register for the webcast, call HCPro customer service at 800-650-6787 or visit the HCPro Marketplace.

Free Tools Friday: “Scrooge List” for holiday decorations

By: October 9th, 2015 Email This Post Print This Post

It’s October, and if you’re like me you’re pretty excited about Halloween, and so too are your employees.

That excitement tends to be the bane of a lot of healthcare safety folks, who find they have to constantly remind their workers about the dangers of hanging decorations around the workplace to celebrate their spookiness.

Well, you don’t have to ban all decorations, but certainly there are some restrictions that must be followed. For Free Tools Friday, we have a “Scrooge list” that you can follow to help make your holiday celebration safer around the workplace.

Find this and our other many useful tools here.

Subscribe - Get blog updates via e-mail


Seeking input on waste management book

January 27, 2016
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Want to be an author for HCPro?

January 13, 2016
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Safety Success Down Any Path

January 7, 2016
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Seeking input on lab safety training book

December 15, 2015
by: John Palmer • General Safety and Health, Lab Safety

The Safety Culture Issue

December 10, 2015
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

Win $50 off by taking our 2016 books survey!

November 4, 2015
by: John Palmer • Uncategorized

  • HCPro Broadcast Events Calendar