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The Martin Army Community Hospital staff is currently gearing up for an upcoming safety re-enforcement inspection by officials from the Army Safety Health Management System.
The inspection, which is set for Oct. 17-21, is to ensure that the staff is up to par on all safety procedures and that they are in compliance with the hospital commander's safety plan, according to Chris Lee, MACH's safety manager.
"It will be a five-person team, which includes two members from (Medical Command), and two or three private contractors that MEDCOM pays to conduct the Army Safety Health Management System audits," explained Lee. He added that MACH had 180 days to correct any deficiencies from a previous inspection.
"ASHMS is a change in safety culture and Martin Army has continued to make great strides toward this shift and how we hold ourselves accountable. The ASHMS inspection, and ultimately being recognized as a star site, will help us continue the road map to becoming a High Reliability Organization. Most importantly, we are continuing to ensure the safety of our staff and patients who visit our facility every day," said Lt. Col. Bryan Walrath, MACH's deputy commanding officer.
Lee said the key to passing the inspection relies on the knowledge of employees and their decision to do what is right.
"The most important thing is for employees to understand what ASHMS is. So we've created a lot of information and placed it on the hospital's shared computer drive. We've handed out badges and we've handed out safety handbooks to help with actual questions from the audit team, but it's important to have a good understanding of what ASHMS actually means," he explained.
Lee said during the first survey, his office simplified its explanation of what ASHMS is for the hospital staff. He said they projected it as if it was MACH's safety program and the safety office was the only entity that was responsible for passing the inspections.
"Through that experience and after talking to the audit team, they made it clear that it's not just about our safety program. It's really a leadership program that focuses on the employees," Lee said. "So I've since changed our definition of ASHMS. Now it's a program or system that holds leaders accountable for empowering their employees to participate and understand their safety program."
He added that it is a system that's all about holding leaders accountable to ensure that they are engaging their employees, and to ensure that they understand and take ownership in their own safety program.
Lee pointed out that employee involvement is one of the key areas that inspectors will look at when they return in October.
"It really boils down to just understanding what part each of them plays in the safety program. For leaders, it's understanding how to communicate with your employees, understanding the commander's safety goals and making sure your objectives align with them, and ensuring that information is shared between management all the way down to the lowest level," Lee said.
He added that it's also important for employees to understand the everyday things such as, reporting accidents and hazards, ensuring fire extinguishers are up-to-date, completing required monthly checks and completing risk assessments for individual areas.
He said an often overlooked factor is for supervisors to properly receive their new employees into the work area. That means showing them all possible hazards and how to report them, and ensuring that they know where fire extinguishers are and how to use them properly.
"(Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires that (employees) be made aware of any hazards in the work area. We've created a bunch of things for that documentation, so that the supervisor needs to walk that employee around and show them the fire extinguishers, show them how to egress, how to report accidents, hazards and codes. All of those things make up our safety program," said Lee.
Lee pointed out that the commander's safety goals are readily available for employees so that they understand them and are better able to apply them to ensure that MACH's safety program is a success.
"The commander's safety goals are printed in the employee's handbook and they're also written within our strategic safety plan that's available on our SharePoint, under the safety drive's ASHMS tab," Lee said.
According to Lee, the hospital commander's safety goals include: (1) to establish a culture of safety, (2) to ensure proactive and systematical management of risks, and (3) to communicate and build awareness to reduce accidents and injuries.
"Honestly, the audit team that's coming doesn't expect employees to have that memorized, but it's more important to know where to find that information, so that they can ensure that it's being used as a reference whenever they build their own goals within each department or clinic," Lee explained.
He said practicing proper safety procedures at an ASHMS level is a little different than the Army's traditional safety practices, which relied heavily on individual safety coordinators to ensure that their sections or offices were up to standard.
"Traditionally the Army has empowered safety coordinators to be the end-all, be-all for safety, but really under ASHMS, it's about everyone being involved at their particular level," Lee explained. "The role that the safety coordinator plays is to receive information from the safety office during its quarterly safety meeting or the monthly safety coordinator meeting. They take the information that comes directly from command and they relay it back to their supervisors.
"The supervisors should then take that information and ensure that the command and staff's directives are implemented, especially anything that would be considered a "hot" item," he continued. "The safety coordinators are also responsible for fire extinguisher inspections and monthly checks. They should also assist the supervisors with helping to report hazards as well as helping to conduct investigations on any accidents that they may have in their departments."
Lee added that it's important for employees to understand that it does not matter what level of employment they hold, they are still part of the team and safety is everyone's responsibility. He said supervisors should ensure that safety is a rated element on all evaluations, whether military or civilians. He added that all accidents and near misses should be reported, and lastly, supervisors should inform all employees of the risks associated with their positions within the hospital.