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A month-by-month training guide for 2019

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January 1, 2019

It’s the New Year, and like us all, you probably want to start fresh and improve your staff training. It’s a good goal to have—one of the best (not to mention cheapest and easiest) ways to improve safety in your facility is to make sure your employees are trained regularly and thoroughly.

Don’t worry about reinventing the wheel when it comes to your planning—OSHA offers many free resources on its website designed to promote a safer workplace. After all, that’s why the federal agency exists. They want you to make your workplace safer because it saves money: fewer taxpayer dollars spent on inspections, and fewer dollars out of your pocket as a result of fines for safety violations.

Now’s a good time to enjoy the relative quiet of the new year and start planning a free and effective employee training program for 2019. Let OSHA’s resources take care of the costs for you.

January

This is the time to do an assessment of your program, because like any well-laid plan, you need to know where you are before you’ll know where to go. First, stop and figure out what training your facility already does. Do you hold regular training meetings? Sometimes all it takes is a quick 30-minute morning meeting once a month with bagels and coffee to hold a discussion (your choice of topic) with your staff. Get that on the calendar now, and while you’re at it, write up a quick agenda and attendance list on your computer—it can be repopulated with new information every month, and it can also be printed out to keep on file. In addition, you instantly have a document that you can show to an OSHA inspector to prove you are following training regulations.

Next, scoot over to OSHA’s Hazard Identification and Assessment page and heed its advice. On this site, you will find six action items that you can use to craft your own assessment of the safety situation in your clinic, from collecting information about safety data sheets (SDS) and OSHA 300 forms to identifying hazards and conducting investigations of safety incidents.

You can use these tips to make things fun. Create a scavenger hunt or a quiz that tests your employees on things such as where to find the SDSs, the fire extinguishers and exits, PPE, facility emergency plans, and other safety-related items they will need to know about. Best of all, you’ve basically covered all of OSHA’s required training at the cost of a 30-minute staff meeting and a couple of Word® documents.

February

By now, you and your staff are sick and tired of winter’s cold and snow, to the point where you may not be thinking about the safety dangers that this kind of weather presents for both your employees and patients.

Brew a good pot of coffee or hot cocoa and sit your staff down for a primer on the dangers of slips, trips, and falls—perhaps the most prevalent type of injury suffered by healthcare workers today. Start with the outdoor grounds of the facility: Any opening employees should know that their day starts with making sure icy outside areas are salted or sanded and shoveled of any snow. If it’s not their job, they should know how to contact the maintenance service.

OSHA has an entire webpage devoted to winter weather safety in the workplace that explains the many dangers to workers as well as visitors and gives you plenty of helpful tips on avoiding those dreaded fall risks.

It should be second nature that any spills or water tracked in from outside are immediately mopped up, and mats should be firmly placed on the ground so that they don’t become a tripping hazard.

The site provides teaching about how to walk properly and how to wear proper footwear. Some safety officials train their employees to “walk like a penguin” in slippery conditions: When they are walking on ice, they should be shifting from foot to foot to keep their balance and their center of gravity over a central spot, lessening their chance of falling.

March

March is a good time to update your facility’s training on safe sharps and needlestick prevention, especially since employees often work with needles or around glass vials in the lab that contain potentially infectious bodily fluids.

OSHA offers a website devoted solely to needlesticks and safe sharps to help get you started on your facility’s program. On this site, OSHA’s e-tool includes a wealth of information for training, from statistics about injuries caused by needlesticks to safe disposal of used sharps to a sample evaluation form you can use to check out new safety devices.

Now is also the perfect time to organize a training session with some needles and oranges, where staff practice capping off used needles after administering an injection. You could also have a vendor come in to show samples of some of the newest safety devices on the market (which, by the way, is an OSHA requirement under the Needlestick Prevention Act).

April

April is a good time to go over your violence prevention plan, because the weather is getting nicer, and that means more patients will show up at your clinic. It’s a time when more injuries occur because people are generally more active, and you’re likely to see more substance abuse cases as well.

Review your violence prevention plans. What should your employees do if a patient gets violent in the waiting room or threatens a physician? Is there an alarm that the front desk personnel know to activate? Do they know how to get in touch with the police?

OSHA has become very proactive about preventing violence in the healthcare workplace, issuing in 2015 the Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers, otherwise known as directive #3148, which is effectively a new standard to which facilities are expected to adhere.

OSHA offers several websites and tools that can be used to help train employees and prepare your workplace. For instance, you can find a checklist made up of several questions that’s usable as a training document for evidence to show OSHA. You can also check out the workplace violence e-tool for lots of tips on preventing violence, responding to it, and creating a culture of non-tolerance.

Train your employees to lock doors behind them, to always have someone around them, and to recognize the signs of a potentially violent person. Give your local police department a call and ask a representative to come in to give a talk about de-escalation tactics and basic personal defense; most departments will be happy to send someone over, and it gives them a chance to check out your facility as well should they ever need to help you out.

May

If you’ve been doing things right, you’ve been following OSHA’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) regulations. As of June 2016, all workplaces need to be in compliance with the GHS regulations, which require new labels containing visual pictograms on all chemical containers as well as SDSs to go with them; all employees must know where to find and how to read the pictograms and SDSs.

Even if you have already completed training, hold a refresher. Download examples of SDSs and pictograms  and refresh your staff’s memories. While you’re at it, have them find examples around the facility in teams, and have them sign off to create a record.

June

This is your month to celebrate the midpoint of your new success as a safer workplace. Each June, the National Safety Council (NSC), an Illinois-based safety advocacy group, promotes safety in homes, workplaces, and communities across the country with a monthlong National Safety Month campaign.

The topics change each year, but the group offers resources that can easily be applied to the healthcare workplace and used for training purposes. In the past, safety subjects have included emergency planning on preventing slips, trips, and falls as well as on ergonomics, a growing source of silent injury as more workers spend time in front of computers and hunched over microscopes. Check out the NSC website for Safety Month resources you can download.

July

It’s the dog days of summer, and the heat will make your employees (and maybe you) not want to do much. However, this is the time to be on the lookout for signs of health and safety issues specific to hot weather.

Put out a pitcher of lemonade and devote your training session this month to a first aid discussion about heat exhaustion or heatstroke, focusing on the signs of dehydration and the importance of making sure workers drink enough water, even if the air conditioning is on (it dries out the air).

Start your planning by using this handy checklist, which also contains lots of tips, advice, and resources about helping workers both indoors and out stay healthy while working in hot weather.

Next, remind employees to keep the doors shut and locked. It can be tempting to prop open doors and windows to let some fresh air in, but in a temperature-sensitive lab that can lead to contaminated samples, and it’s also a perimeter security issue in clinics. That’s why you have air conditioning.

August

This is usually another quiet month, as it’s the end of summer and vacation time for many families. Take this opportunity to do some summer cleaning, and devote a training session to reducing waste—it can both make your facility safer and cut down on your hazardous waste removal costs.

Take this time to go through your out-of-the-way spaces, such as the storage under sinks. During your next staff meeting, throw out expired cleaners and chemicals (using the right PPE, of course), and make sure the ones you keep have the proper SDSs on file.

Some clinic safety professionals make games out of trash disposal. Try a game called “Trashketball” at your next in-service meeting, where you set up several small wastebaskets—one each for chemical waste, regulated medical waste, sharps, and regular trash. Label balls with words such as “broken glass,” “plastic tube,” and “bloody glove,” and let staff take turns throwing the balls into the correct waste stream receptacle.

September

September is back-to-school month, which means kids will be coming in for their annual checkups and you’ll be getting ready to deal with all sorts of illnesses. It’s a good idea to catch up on your plans to deal with them.

Start with a staff discussion about flu shots. Some clinics are making it a job requirement to get flu shots, and if you’re not one of them, you should at least encourage it to help keep your staff well. It’s also an OSHA requirement to offer the flu vaccination; if any of your staff decline, have them sign a declination form.

Next, what’s your pandemic emergency plan should a lot of people come in simultaneously with the same illness? The CDC provides resources such as triage checklists that include questions frontline staff should ask incoming patients, proper PPE to wear, and when to know if it’s time to hit the panic button. Set up a practice scenario with your nurses and front-end receptionists and run through what would happen if a pandemic strikes. OSHA has a website for this as well, with lots of information about the different kinds of PPE found in healthcare, how to use it, and the standards that govern its uses.

October

This is Fire Safety month, which makes your training session easy. Take this opportunity to review your evacuation plans with your staff, as well as fire safety tips that you can find from resources such as OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association.

OSHA’s fire safety e-tool covers just about everything you’ll need to set up a training session, including information about establishing exit routes, alarm systems and evacuation plans, and dealing with hazardous materials.

Where would your staff meet outside should the building be evacuated? Do they know how to use a fire extinguisher? You’d be surprised how many workers have never even picked one up. Call your local fire department and have a crew come down and give staff a primer. Some departments will even let staff practice taking shots with an extinguisher at a real fire. While you’re at it, practice your fire drills.

November

November is traditionally a transitional weather month, and depending on where you live, your facility is likely to see bouts of severe weather, ranging from snow and ice to wind and heavy rain. This is the month to go over your storm preparation plans, which could involve anything from practicing your evacuation protocols in the event of major flooding to a “shelter-in-place” plan should a tornado hit. In the event of a major snowstorm, do you know how your staff will get to work, and if they need to stay overnight, do you have plans in place to feed them or accommodate them? Most clinics would not stay open in major weather events, but some that are connected to hospitals have plans in place that use them as satellite facilities in an overflow situation. Make sure your staff knows their role and practices.

It’s a good month to make sure your emergency preparedness plans are in overall good shape. OSHA’s emergency preparedness website contains plenty of information about general preparedness and response, including weather hazards, radiological and biological disasters, pandemics, and sample responses to recent real-life emergencies.


December

Congratulations! You’ve made it through a year of your new training program. You’ve earned the right to have a party and celebrate a new safety culture with your staff—but not before you sit down and have that safety meeting you’ve gotten so used to holding. This month, go over decoration safety tips, because you know you’ll have someone in the lab who just needs to have holiday decorations hanging in the workstation. From now on, that’s a no-no, as paper decorations hanging from the walls are considered a fire hazard. And yes, OSHA has a website listing the standard that prohibits it.




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