Industrial Hygiene the Incident Commander

The Environmental Manager will know exactly what systems we are equipped to deal with and how to best implement them in our institution.

If we need to hire third-party waste management experts including off-campus toilets and perhaps even showers then our Environmental Manager will tell us so and therefore, he or she is thoroughly in charge of issues related to waste management. I would suggest that the Environmental Manager create his or her own team of support personnel. Only a department manager can determine what traits or characteristics to look for in support members.

One of the more immediate concerns would be the initial cleanup effort. I would need to create a team of individuals dedicated to providing the best possible cleanup service, from sanitizing air vents to scrubbing floors. Moreover, our technicians would need to assess the post-cleanup environment to determine whether it was safe for working and operating after the disaster. Given that I oversee hazard assessment, and all safe entry and cleanup procedures, I would demand that special attention be paid to any public areas and especially the surgical suites and clinical laboratory, if they were intended for immediate use. Because of restrictions on personnel and funding, I would focus our cleanup efforts on those rooms and areas that were intended for immediate use and only be secondarily concerned with areas that were to remain unused until further notice from administrative personnel.

I would determine whether or not any counseling services were needed to ease the transition into working for our regular personnel. Being used to a certain environmental standard might create shock in some employees. To ensure effectiveness and maximize productivity, I would make sure that all employees were comfortable and felt alright expressing their concerns about environmental hazards. The shock of the hurricane itself is something we all will be dealing with and so I would make sure that group counseling and other services would be available upon request.

Leaving testing equipment details squarely in the hands of technicians who know best, I would remain mainly in charge of delegating authority and encouraging teamwork. A cooperative, amicable working environment will be more conducive to success than one that is disorganized. Therefore, role clarity and clear task delegation are keys to ensuring smooth communications.

According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the five main concerns of industrial hygiene, especially in the wake of a disaster, include the following. First, “following proper procedures that minimize exposures while operating production and control equipment” means paying attention to institutional guidelines while taking into account the special circumstances that Hurricane Katrina posed. Checking all hospital equipment for damage and making sure any equipment designated for use would require a team of technicians that could test and maintain equipment. Similarly, OSHA recommends “inspecting and maintaining process and control equipment on a regular basis.” Good “housekeeping procedures” are standard but must be tailored to the unique needs of a post-disaster scenario. Supervision and prohibiting unsavory behaviors such as smoking or eating in undesignated areas would ensure that further contamination risks are reduced.

I would require a team that consisted of (a) initial cleanup team; (b) testers and maintenance crew to provide scientific data; – physicians willing to work in the post-trauma environment; and (d) solid communicators and managers with experience in disaster scenarios.

References

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Informational Booklet on Industrial Hygiene. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved online July 9, 2008 at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3143/OSHA3143.htm#How%20do

Personal Protective Equipment Plan.” University of Rochester. Retrieved July 9, 2008 at http://www.safety.rochester.edu/ih/ppeplan2.html.

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