Regulations you need to know: OSHA (Part 2) (Proceedings)
Since most OSHA inspections are the result of an employee (or former employee) complaint or a reported injury or illness, very often the inspection will focus on a specific area of concern within the workplace. Just as medical professionals specialize, the inspector's expertise in occupational health or general safety rules will also play a role in what portions of a hospital safety program are evaluated. With that in mind, we'll discuss the elements of an entire hospital safety program. Remember, this is not an overnight project. There are few definitively right or wrong answers. The important objective is to document the policies and practices that are in effect now. Changes and revisions will come with time. When you have completed a section's policy statements and training materials, add it to the Hospital Safety Manual binder. This will demonstrate a comprehensive program.
Hazards for the Entire Staff
Food and BeveragesThe potential for illness from ingestion of pathogens or harmful chemicals is definitely present in most veterinary hospitals. Although some veterinarians jokingly imply that immunity only comes from exposure, OSHA takes eating and drinking in hazardous areas seriously. Several years ago, a veterinarian was fined for allowing employees to eat lunch on the treatment table. Although not specifically mentioned in OSHA standards, the treatment table is a potential contamination source. Consumption of food and beverages must be limited to areas free of toxic and biologically harmful substances.
This rule also applies to preparation of foods and beverages. Many hospitals have a staff coffee pot and utensil area co-located with the lab. Sometimes the cabinets above a coffee or food area will contain hazardous chemicals or supplies. This is generally an unacceptable situation.
Hospital refrigerators are another area of concern. Staff lunches, drinks, condiments and snacks must be stored in an area free from biological or chemical hazards. Vaccines, drugs and laboratory samples are all potential contamination sources. It is acceptable to store patient food in a refrigerator with human food.
General Housekeeping and Maintenance
OSHA requires all workplaces to be maintained in a manner free from physical and health hazards. Hospitals should continuously look for unsafe or hazardous conditions by implementing daily "walk-through" inspections.
Fire & Emergencies
Prior planning for emergencies is essential to workplace safety. Pre-designated duties, routes of egress, notification procedures and personnel accountability are essential elements of an emergency action plan. Fire prevention plans must include a list of the major workplace fire hazards and control methods, the names or job titles of persons responsible for the maintenance of emergency equipment or fuel sources, housekeeping procedures to prevent fire emergencies, training of the staff in fire prevention and the scheduled maintenance of emergency equipment.
Emergency telephone numbers, including fire, police, ambulance (or Emergency Medical Service), and emergency maintenance personnel should be assembled and prominently displayed near each telephone. Don't assume that everyone knows to dial 9-1-1 for an emergency. Since a few seconds could make the difference in an emergency, write down clear instructions and a "script" for the person to read.
All workplaces must have appropriate fire extinguishers available. In general, most veterinary hospitals would be safe to have dry chemical type extinguishers, but check with your local fire marshal to be sure. Normally, the fire extinguishers must be placed strategically throughout the hospital, and less than 75 feet apart.
There must be a program to ensure that fire extinguishers are inspected annually by a qualified technician. A record of the inspection must be maintained. Monthly, a designated individual from the hospital must visually checked each extinguisher to ensure it still properly "charged," and that it hasn't been removed or damaged. This monthly check should be annotated on the reverse side of the inspection tag.
Emergency exits and egress (escape) routes must be identified, properly marked and maintained free from obstructions. If an exit is not clearly visible, the route to the nearest exit must be properly marked. Exit doors must not be locked or fastened in such a way as to prevent free escape from the inside of the building. Normally, this means that exit doors should open outward and be equipped with a push-type latching device ("panic bar"). In no circumstances should a deadbolt or lock requiring a key to exit from the inside be installed on an exit door.
For work areas that are located in basements or other "isolated" places, it is usually required to have two means of egress so arranged as to minimize the possibility that both may be blocked by a fire or other emergency. Exit doors must be marked with a sign bearing the word "EXIT" in plainly legible letters not less than 6 inches high and 3/4 inches wide. Where the direction of travel to reach the nearest exit is not immediately apparent, a sign reading "EXIT" with an arrow indicating the direction must be posted. Exits, signs and egress routes must not be decorated or "hidden" so as to detract from their visibility.