Bob Meloche
Safety Manager
Eisenhower Army Medical Center

I frequently get asked to comment on the role of a Safety professional in health care. Allow me to offer some insight.

Safety is a different issue in health care, as compared to general industry. In the general industry, Occupational Health and Safety Administration compliance is king, and takes most of the efforts of the safety professional to ensure compliance. That isn't the situation in health care. While OSHA compliance is still important, it doesn't take nearly as much of the safety professional's efforts as Life Safety does. The main reason why is you have patients that are non-ambulatory and incapable of self-preservation in the hospital in the event of a fire. You also have 5 or 6 different agencies (Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, MEDCOM, Rodriguez Army Health Clinic, Fort Gordon fire inspector) that expect you to comply with the National Fire Protection Association 101 Life Safety Code, and they frequently inspect our facilities

The whole concept of Life Safety pertains to getting out of the building alive if it is on fire. In other words, the Life Safety Code is primarily (but not wholly) building oriented. This translates to the Safety professional working hand in hand with the hospital facilities management team. This way, if the Safety professional needs assistance in changing something at DDEAMC, he/she already has a certain built-in cooperation because the facility person is directly involved with the Safety Office.

The Safety professional is a person who is often seen walking though departments and clinics, ensuring visibility with Eisenhower Army Medical Center's staff. The Safety professional builds a positive relationship with others, ensuring they are seen as a resource, not a hindrance.

Construction, renovation and maintenance activities often compromise life safety codes. Fire suppression systems are temporarily taken off line, resulting in the need for a fire watch, or fire exits doors may be blocked, causing the rerouting of egress paths.

Safety professionals ensure patient, staff and contractor safety -- and fulfill TJC compliance requirements -- through a comprehensive an interim life safety measures program that compensates for deficiencies.

In a complete life cycle approach, we assess the risks to life safety, and train our staff and contractor personnel. We study every phase to identify hazards and determine preventive measures. Throughout the project, we audit life safety procedures to verify compliance with both TJC policies and your own standards.

The world of hospital safety is constantly changing, whether it's complying with new requirements from CMS and The Joint Commission, being ready for a natural disaster, or dealing with violence in the emergency department, EAMC Safety provides assets and knowledge designed to assist in reducing risk, ensure regulatory compliance, and train the staff.

Ask any hospital safety manger who's recently gone through a survey from The Joint Commission what will they do next, and the answer will certainly be simple and to the point: Prepare for the next one.