Health & Safety Frequently Asked Questions
The MNA Division of Health and Safety has a wealth of information and solutions for hazardous working environments. You have questions and concerns…and we have the answers.
Workplace Violence Prevention
Q. Is it appropriate for me or someone I know to file criminal charges against a perpetrator of violence in the hospital where I work?
A.Yes, violence is a crime and many instances of violence in healthcare settings result from intentional or perpetrated violence. The first step would be to immediately inform your manager or supervisor that the potential for violence exists, i.e., a person has hurt you or threatened you or is indicating that s/he plans to hurt you or someone else. If your manager does not act to insure your safety, you have the right to involve the police.
Latex Allergy Prevention
Q. My employer is still providing latex examination gloves for us to use when giving patient care even though we have brought in information on the adverse health effects from them. Where can I get information on appropriate types of gloves to use for the the type of nursing work I do?
A. The University of Massachusetts Lowell, Sustainable Hospitals Project at www.sustainablehospitals.org has descriptions and information on synthetic gloves that are appropriate for all types of chemical exposures.
Safety Needles and Sharps
Q. We are not using safety needles at the facility where I work. This concerns me, as the potential for exposure to bloodborne pathogens still exists. How can I get my employer to provide safety needles and other safe devices?
A. You can call your local OSHA office and talk to someone about how to file an anonymous complaint. OSHA will then contact your employer by fax or phone and ask what the employer is providing in relation to safety needles and sharps. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard 1910.1030 requires that the safest equipment available must be provided to protect employees from exposure to blood and body fluids. Most likely your employer will change their practice once they learn that OSHA is aware that they are not providing safety sharps. If the process does not change, call OSHA again and there will most likely be an unannounced visit to the facility for failure to abate an unsafe condition.
Additionally, www.sustainablehospitals.org has descriptions and information on safety needles and sharps that are appropriate for all types of procedures and drug administration.
To find contact information for your local OSHA office, go to www.dol.gov/OSHA. There are three regional offices in Massachusetts located in Braintree, Methuen and Springfield.
Q. Nurses and other staff members on our floor cough and have headaches whenever the hospital strips the wax from the floors. We have asked our employer not to do this when we are here, but it never changes. How can I convince my employer not to strip the wax from the floors during my shift due to my resulting adverse health effects?
A.You have probably heard about Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) in your hospital safety training program. First, you must learn the name of the chemical product that is being used. The environmental services person using the chemical should have that information, if not ask your manager to get the information for you. Second, go to the resource for MSDS, either online or in a book, find the sheet on the chemical you are being exposed to. Next, find the health effects section and read through the information. Your symptoms and the symptoms of your co-workers are most likely described there. Finally, bring this information to your supervisor and employee health. If there are no changes, follow the procedure above for calling OSHA.
Unsafe Working Conditions
Q. I am not an MNA member, how can I get information about some unsafe conditions that I think exist where I work?
A.The MNA Division of Health and Safety staff members will accept calls from nurses anywhere who have questions about health and safety at work. We have many resources that we can offer to you or that you can access on your own. Contact information for the MNA Division of Health and Safety can be found here.
Additionally, you can always talk with representatives at your local OSHA office or go online to www.dol.gov/OSHA or www.cdc.gov/NIOSH. Type your concern into the search box and you will most likely get back lots of resources, fact sheets and guidelines. You can then share them with your co-workers, managers and supervisors.
Q. Are there any Health and Safety educational resources for nurses available online?
A.Yes, the MNA has several Health and Safety continuing nursing education programs available online. There is no charge for anyone, anywhere to participate in these online programs.
MNA also provides face to face educational programs on Health and Safety that are included on the MNA Continuing Education Calendar. There is no charge for MNA members and a small charge for others to attend.