Archive for: First Aid

Take a lesson about chemicals from janitor’s death

By: July 9th, 2014 Email This Post Print This Post

We hear it every day like a broken record – wear your PPE and know what you are doing when you are working with hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Unfortunately, too many people don’t listen and they end up paying the ultimate price.

I’m reminded of this today as I read more about the janitor in an elementary school in Plymouth, Massachusetts who was apparently overcome and died from exposure from an as-yet unknown chemical on Monday morning.

If you’re just learning about this, 53-year-old Chester Flattery, the head custodian at Manomet Elementary School, was found dead by the school secretary at about 8 a.m.  That employee and 12 other people – many of them police officers, firefighters and other first responders who were exposed – had to also be taken to the hospital for treatment.

The investigation is still ongoing, but reports say Flattery had been at work for an hour before anyone else and that he may have been applying a floor sealant at the time of his death. School is not in session and there is a lot of maintenance work that goes into getting the building ready for next year.

Now, we all in workplace safety world know he was supposed to be wearing a respirator, eye protection, and other protective equipment. I have been a teacher in an elementary school, and I have seen these guys hard at work getting the school ready, even as I was getting my own classroom ready for students.

Most of the time, they are in regular street clothes as they go about their duties and I am willing to bet Flattery was no exception. As someone who had been working there since 2007, he was probably just doing what he always did – this time the fumes were too much for him and no one was there to help him until it was too late.

It almost happened to me. Back in college, I worked as a pool director at a country club in Connecticut, responsible for maintaining the proper chemical levels. One morning, I went into the supply closet looking for chlorine pellets, not knowing that one of my lifeguards hadn’t tightened the cover of the bucket properly the night before, allowing rain water to seep in. When I took the cover off, I got hit with a cloud of chlorine gas that knocked me off my feet and burned my throat. Happily, I was able to get to fresh air quickly and was fine. But no one was around and I was not wearing any kind of protection. I was lucky, and I never made the same mistake twice.

In the healthcare field, you can take a lesson from this tragedy. Don’t assume that just because you have done a job for a long time, you can ignore the rules. OSHA has bloodborne pathogens and hazardous chemical standards for a reason. If you are working with patients, wear your gloves, use your safety sharps, and lift safely.

If you are in a lab and work with chemicals, make sure you know the hazards of what you are working with and how to handle it properly, as well as any first aid information – it’s why OSHA says you must have SDS safety sheets on site. And always be sure someone is around, because it may save your life.

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

By: 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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Surveyors eyeing eyewash station compliance

By: September 8th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

An item on eyewash stations in Mac’s Safety Space spills over into the OSHA Healthcare Advisor bailiwick and is a good reminder to safety officers whether you are anticipating an accreditation survey or not.

Here is what Steve MacArthur, safety consultant for The Greeley Company and an occasional blogger in this space had to say:

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Ask the expert: Locker room showers for emergency exposures

By: August 15th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: Is it okay to use locker room showers in our ambulatory surgery center for eye exposures to chemicals?

A: It is not compliant to use locker showers in place of emergency eyewash stations for chemical exposures to the eyes.

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Notes from the Field: Who gave you that bad advice?

By: August 5th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

In the past year I have performed over 100 mock OSHA inspections. I have heard every excuse in the book for not complying with OSHA regulations and CDC guidelines applicable to healthcare settings.

Many times the excuse for noncompliance is that someone told them to do/not to do whatever it is we are discussing. I am going to share some of the bad advice that physician offices have been given by consultants, experts, and even colleagues.

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Test your safety IQ—OSHA fines and emergency eyewash stations

By: July 7th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

True or  False: Because OSHA standards do not define specifics of compliant emergency eyewash equipment, the agency will not fine medical practices if cited for not having one.

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Medical Environment Update, July 2011—Aye-aye on eyewash station compliance

By: July 7th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The July issue of Medical Environment Update takes a look at the basics for emergency eyewash station OSHA compliance in medical and dental practices.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

The very brief final section of OSHA’s Medical Services and First Aid standard (1910.151[c]) brings into focus the need for emergency eyewash stations in most medical and dental practices:

Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.

In medical and dental practices, this usually means exposures involving but not limited to disinfectants or sterilants such as glutaraldehyde, specimen preservatives such as formaldehyde, hazardous drugs such as the antineoplastic drugs used in chemotherapy, or even splashes from blood or OPIM (see the sidebar on p. 3).

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Eyewash station weekly checklist

By: July 5th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Here is a tip from the July issue of Medical Environment Update, which featured OSHA compliance and emergency eyewash stations in medical and dental practices.

Plumbed eyewash stations require weekly checks to be compliant with ANSI Z358.1-2009, which OSHA may reference during an inspection. Each week, check for the following:

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Medical Environment Update—First aid training for workers in medical practices

By: May 9th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The May issue of Medical Environment Update takes a close look at first aid programs for workers in medical and dental practices. There is no guarantee of a meaningful emergency response without training.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

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Weekly Poll: Uniforms and safety

By: February 7th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

The report of a German dental practice’s resorting to sexy uniforms to allay patient anxieties may be an extreme example of the potential for uniform policies in healthcare facilities to become a touchy subject. Leaving low-cut dirndl dresses aside for the moment, has your facility had conflicts with uniform and dress code policies with regard to workplace safety issues?

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Eyeing emergency eyewash stations: An OSHA training tip

By: June 15th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Your coworkers pass by emergency eyewash stations dozens of times per day. Unfortunately, they might look upon them with unknowing, blind eyes.

To prevent actual blindness in an emergency situation, coordinate a brief, informative tutorial on how to use these safety stations.

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Regulatory flu bug bites hospital

By: February 19th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

A Spokane hospital was cited for not protecting its workers from H1N1 influenza by the Washington State version of OSHA. The state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued $8,000 in fines to Sacred Heart Medical Center, according to a February 18 news release from the Washington State Nurses Association.

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