Friday, September 29, 2017

Time To Remind Staff About Holiday Decoration Safety Rules

Workplace Holiday Season Safety
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years and other holidays inspire staff members to set up decorations. These initiatives are often done with good intentions, meant to bring a touch of cheer or team festivity to a sometimes sterile healthcare office environment, but you will bear the blame if any decorations result in fire or occupational safety hazards.

Decorating the workplace can result in falls and dangerous tripping hazards. Avoid placing trees, gifts, Halloween decor (particularly dangerous or flammable cob web, steamers and banners) or other freestanding decorations in busy areas where people might run into them or trip over them. Always use the proper step stool or ladder to reach high places safely, not chairs or other unstable furniture. Before using a ladder, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and do not exceed recommended usage limits. Potential trips over cords or decorations, slips and falls are workers’ compensation claims waiting to happen.

It's also essential to make sure that your holiday decor does not block exits, cover exit signage, or block access to fire safety equipment. Do not place any type of decorative items in exit corridors or hang decorations from or covering fire sprinklers.

General Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday Decorations
Holiday decorations should create higher morale at the workplace, not hazards and potential for accidents and injuries, so take proper precautions. Choose artificial greenery made of fire retardant materials for office decorating. All decorations (including trees, wreaths, curtains/drapes, hangings, etc.) should be either noncombustible (not all artificial trees are), inherently flame retardant (the label will say so), or have been treated with a flame retardant solution.

Trees

  • Consider an artificial tree, which poses less risk than a live one.
  • Make sure live tree has water at all times so as not to dry out & become a fire hazard.
  • Live trees can be safer when sprayed with flame retardant.
  • Live trees should be in a location that does not interfere with foot traffic. Do not allow blockage of your escape route--doorways, exits, or pathways.
  • Live trees do not belong near heat sources (vents, flames, space heaters, etc.) where they can dry out.
  • Keep in mind trees can be top heavy, so use a sturdy stand. Consider safely using support from thin guy wires attached to walls or ceilings, to keep them from falling over and injuring someone.

Electric Lights

  • Before plugging in electrical decorations, carefully check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed, loose or bare wires, or loose connections. Damaged sets may cause a serious electric shock or start a fire; if damaged, discard - do not attempt to repair. Always unplug a light string or electrical decoration before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
  • Don't overload extension cords, which could overheat and start a fire. Extension cords have different ratings so be sure to check before plugging in multiple light string sets.
  • Never tack or staple an extension cord to the wall or woodwork--it could damage the cord and create a fire hazard. Make sure cords do not dangle from counters and table tops where they can be pulled or tripped over.
  • If an extension cord is used in a busy area or crosses a walkway, secure with duct tape or cover with mats or carpet.
  • Consider using miniature lights with cool-burning bulbs. Use only lights that have been tested for safety, identified by a label from an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Use indoor lights only indoors and outside lights outdoors.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, building, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage. Don't mount or support light strings in any way that might damage the cord's wire insulation.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted. To avoid this danger, use colored spotlights above or beside a tree, never fastened onto it.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you leave the workplace. Lights could short and start a fire.

Trimmings/Other Decorations

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials. Choose tinsel, artificial icicles, plastic or non-leaded metals.
  • Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass "angel hair," which can irritate eyes and skin. A common substitute is non-flammable cotton. Both angel hair and cotton snow are flame retardant when used alone. However, if artificial snow is sprayed onto them, the dried combination will burn rapidly.
  • When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces, be sure to follow directions carefully. These sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.
  • Never place trimmings near open flames or electrical connections.

Candles

  • Contribute to 10,000 fires per year. They are generally not safe to use in the workplace.
  • Never use candles to decorate trees; keep away from flammable materials, such as boughs or wreaths, other decorations or wrapping paper, and curtains/drapes.
  • Never leave lit candles unattended, and extinguish before leaving the workplace.

Parties

  • Preparation for holiday parties: Decorate only with flame-retardant or noncombustible materials. If guests will be smoking, provide them with ashtrays and check them frequently. After the party, check around furniture and in trashcans for cigarette butts that may be smoldering.
  • Holiday food preparation: Thoroughly cook and serve foods at proper temperatures.  Refrigerate cooked leftovers within 2 hours at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or below. More information can be found at http://www.foodsafety.gov/.
                                                                                                                            
To summarize, using the list below should help keep you on the plus side of OSHA, your local fire authority and provide your staff a safe work environment during the holidays.
                                                                       
        NO decorative electrical lights of any kind in the patient vicinity (i.e., any room where a patient receives care).
        NO decorations that create a trip hazard (e.g. electrical cords or extension cords across halls or walkways).
        NO natural cut or once-live evergreen trees or garlands.
        NO artificial Christmas trees unless labeled or otherwise identified or certified as “flame retardant” or “flame resistant.”
        NO decorations that obstruct exits.
        NO combustible decorations. All decorations must be flame retardant and labeled as such. These decorations should always be kept away from ignition sources (e.g., light fixtures, electrical receptacles, etc.).
        NO decorations that are explosive or highly flammable (e.g., decorative crepe paper or pyroxylin plastic decorations).
        NO decorations that impair the visibility of an exit sign or portable fire extinguisher.
        NO decorations that impair the proper operation or the fire sprinkler system. Do not attach anything to sprinkler heads.
        NO decorations attached to painted surfaces with tape or staples. Hanging decorations from a ceiling grid is preferable.
        NO wall decorations in excess of 10% of the wall surface area.
Also consider declaring a date on which all holiday decorations must be taken down, which can help to eliminate any lingering compliance problems. Many facilities set the date of January 3 to conclude all holiday decorating activities.


Be safe and  enjoy the holiday season from HCSI!

 HCSI

Source(s): www.hcsiinc.com, http://www.foodsafety.govhttp://www.statefundca.com, http://www.nsc.org


To subscribe to this blog, enter your email address:


Delivered by FeedBurner

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Discussing Pay at the Office

Many employers restrict their employees from conversations about pay at the office, but is this legal?

It is a common practice in many companies for the employee policy manual to contain some verbiage about not discussing compensation and pay with other employees. This policy is easily agreed to by the employees and thus the company has achieved its goal of keeping the often times illegal practice of pay secrecy in place.

Is Pay Secrecy Illegal?

In 1935, Congress passed a law entitled, the National Labor Relations Act or the “Wagner Act”. Under this act, private-sector employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” For this reason, restricting private-sector employees from discussing their compensation with one another is illegal. There is a limit as to who can discuss pay with other employees. Supervisors, for example, would not be considered an “employee” and therefore they can be prohibited from discussing pay. In addition, employees who have access to a company’s payroll could also be prohibited from sharing other employee’s private salary information.


Why is the Wagner Act in Place?



It was the purpose of the Wagner Act to protect employees against unfair pay practices. Giving the employees the freedom to discuss their compensation does a lot to help avoid unfair pay practices and puts pressure on a company to ensure pay-for-value (pay based on experience, education, skills, and the assigned responsibilities of the job) is in place. If an organization has a pay-for-value system in place, then they would not be afraid of employees discussing their compensation with each other. It is when a company has something to hide within their pay practices that problems arise when pay is discussed.

Employers Who Violate This Law

Employers who violate this law could have repercussions that would range anywhere from a wrongfully terminated lawsuit to the possible loss of federal contracts.

If an employee has been wrongfully fired for discussing their pay, they are may contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and file a complaint. The NLRB may begin an investigation into the matter regarding their former employer.

In most cases, pay secrecy is against the law. Employer should have a pay-for-value system in place and avoid any possible penalties for violating the Wagner Act.




To subscribe to this blog, enter your email address:


Delivered by FeedBurner

Friday, September 8, 2017

Navigating The Storm: HIPAA Compliance and Repairing Natural Disasters

NAVIGATING THE STORM: HIPAA COMPLIANCE AND PREPARING FOR IRMA
As Hurricane Irma approaches, hospitals, medical professionals and emergency medical personnel in the path of the storm are actively preparing for the storm’s arrival.  Making sure that health information is available before, during and after the storm is a critical part of that preparation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) wants to make sure medical professionals and emergency personnel understand when the HIPAA regulations may apply to them – and when those regulations apply, how they can share individually identifiable (protected) health information (PHI) during emergency situations. The Privacy Rule is carefully designed to protect the privacy of health information, while allowing important health care communications to occur.  The HIPAA Security Rule’s requirements with respect to contingency planning also help HIPAA covered entities and business associates assure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic PHI (ePHI) during an emergency such as a natural disaster.   
Planning
OCR makes available on its website an interactive decision tool designed to assist emergency preparedness and recovery planners in determining how to gain access to and use PHI consistent with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The tool guides the user through a series of questions to find out how the Privacy Rule would apply in specific situations.  By helping users focus on key Privacy Rule issues, the tool helps users appropriately obtain health information for their public safety activities. The tool is designed for covered entities as well as emergency preparedness and recovery planners at the local, state and federal levels. To utilize the Disclosures for Emergency Preparedness Decision Tool, click here.
Covered entities and business associates should also look to recent guidance issued during Hurricane Harvey for more information on how the HIPAA Privacy permits sharing of PHI in circumstances that arise during natural disasters.  https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hurricane-harvey-hipaa-bulletin.pdf
Security
The HIPAA Security Rule is not suspended during natural disasters or emergencies and specifically requires covered entities and business associates to implement strategies to protect ePHI during an emergency and assure ePHI can be accessed during and after an emergency.  https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/2005/is-the-security-rule-under-hipaa-suspended-during-a-public-health-emergency/index.html

 In particular, covered entities and business associates must have contingency plans that include or address the following elements: 

1) Data backup plan (required);

2) Disaster recovery plan (required);

3) Emergency mode operation plan (required); 4) testing and revision procedures (addressable); and 5) application and data criticality analysis (addressable).   

For further information, please see:

Please also view the Civil Rights Emergency Preparedness page to learn how nondiscrimination laws apply during an emergency.
 HCSI


To subscribe to this blog, enter your email address:


Delivered by FeedBurner