Costarring with OSHA
It is fair to say that most facilities dread visits from government inspectors. The stress of inspections tends to distract frontline staff and administrators from their daily tasks, and the prospect of sanctions from the inspecting group weighs heavy on everyone’s minds.
Would any facility actually invite inspectors in on its own accord? Tabor Hills Healthcare Facility in Naperville, Illinois, did exactly that when they invited the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into their 200-resident nursing home. But how did this strange turn of events come to pass?
“When I first came to the facility, we didn’t have a very good record with OSHA, so one of our goals was to straighten that out,” explains Tabor Hills Administrator Gloria Pindiak. “In Illinois, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity [DCEO] is a state-level equivalent to OSHA–they will do advisory reviews at no charge and also with no penalties. If they do find something wrong, their goal is to help you correct it, rather than to penalize you. When we invited them to do an evaluation, they showed us some things in the facility that they were concerned about. After we corrected them and called them [DCEO] back in, they said, ‘Great, you did this so quickly! This is wonderful!'”
Meanwhile, OSHA and Life Services Network of Illinois (LSN)–Tabor Hills’ parent organization–had formed a cooperative to produce a training video specifically for long-term care providers. The cooperative was looking for a SNF to assist in making the video, both with scripting and filming. “DCEO had told someone at OSHA about us because we had responded so well and had a very positive experience,” says Pindiak. “OSHA was looking for a facility to stand up in the video and say that the DCEO process was a positive experience, and to promote throughout the state the idea that you can have someone inspect your facility at no cost and with no consequences. Eventually, the folks at LSN said to us, ‘Well, if you’re feeling so positive about DCEO, OSHA would like to come in now!’ They asked if we would be interested in working with OSHA on the training video.”
Although staff at Tabor Hills were apprehensive at first, reports Pindiak, they came around eventually: “We had a couple of meetings and my staff were willing to try it. We all agreed that it would be something of benefit to the healthcare industry. There were a few other facilities that had been approached and attended a few of the meetings, but they were very skeptical about involvement with OSHA and having the agency come into their facilities–more or less opening their doors ‘unnecessarily’ to a government agency. I guess ignorance is bliss: I felt that it was a good thing, so we pursued it, and they ended up filming here.”
Pindiak and her staff were soon working on a script and making plans to host the professional film crew that would soon be roaming their halls. “For several months prior to the filming, Assistant Administrator Clara Leonard, Quality Manager Nancy Lee, and I worked on the script, along with people from LSN, DCEO, and OSHA. The script doesn’t feature any dialogue, but it mapped out exactly what was happening in the video–afterward we dubbed in a voice-over describing what was going on. The filming was a mock setup, of course.”
Pindiak also notes that the filming went smoothly–the film-makers were very careful not to disrupt life in the facility during the three days they were at Tabor Hills, and the residents were excited to watch a professional film crew at work. But did the OSHA crew end up inspecting, as well as filming, during their time in the facility?
“Well, actually, they did make some recommendations,” admits Pindiak. “They didn’t cite us with any monetary damages, but they still pointed out things they noticed. For example, there was a floor tile that was raised and broken off. They pointed it out as a hazard and we got it fixed right away.”
The result of everyone’s hard work can now be seen not only in smoother floors, but in Work Smart, Be Safe: An Orientation to Long Term Care Safety. The 18-minute video covers the basics in long-term care workplace safety, featuring lifting, housekeeping issues (e.g., blood spills, laundry, etc.), and more. It is available in English and Spanish, and there has been discussion about translating it into Polish and other languages prevalent in Illinois. In addition, it can be viewed in streaming video at www.illinoisosha.com under “Resources.” There is also a companion booklet available in both printed and PDF formats, and there are discussions about making the film available on DVD.
The process seems to have paid off for all involved: OSHA now has an effective training tool, and Tabor Hills received an award from OSHA for its assistance with the video and excellent health and safety record at the 2004 LSN Annual Conference and Expo in April.
Although she admits that she is still approached at conferences and meetings by peers with looks of disbelief on their faces, (“They say, ‘Oh, so you’re the one from Tabor Hills,'” she recalls, chuckling) for her part, Pindiak sees the experience as positive in every way: “It was a good working relationship. OSHA was not here to penalize us. It was a learning experience for us, as well as them. We were trying to put together a film that would be beneficial to all healthcare facilities. It was a means to a common end.”
Or, in movie parlance, it’s a wrap.
For information, contact LSN at (630) 325-6170 or visit www.Isni.org. To comment on this article, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
BY TODD HUTLOCK, ASSISTANT EDITOR
COPYRIGHT 2004 Medquest Communications, LLC
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group