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Time for Hospitals to Issue Holiday Decorations Memo

Scott Wallask, for HealthLeaders Media, September 30, 2009

When he was one of The Joint Commission's life safety surveyors, Brad Keyes, CHSP, recalls walking into a hospital around the time of Halloween and seeing three bales of real hay and an actual scarecrow in the lobby.

"Hey, this is Halloween. This is fun and looks nice. Yeah—you're written up," Keyes told attendees at HCPro's "Life Safety Code Solutions for Hospitals" seminar last week in Boston. Keyes is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company, a division of HCPro, Inc., in Marblehead, MA.

The Joint  Commission and Life Safety Code ban combustible decorations unless they are flame-resistant, so the hay and scarecrow, while festive, were in fact a potential fire hazard that could result in a citation from surveyors.

That argument doesn't always sway staff members on units, however, who enjoy the chance to spruce up patient care areas with decorations for all the holidays that occur in the coming months.

With Halloween still a few weeks off, now is a good time for CEOs to sit down with safety officers, review decoration policies, and issue annual reminders about what types of decorations employees can properly display. Safety officers risk being viewed as Scrooges without CEOs backing them up on decoration enforcement.

"Most organizations have in a policy that a hazard surveillance or code compliant review shall be conducted," said Claude Baker, CFPS, fire and life safety officer and interim manager of safety and regulatory compliance at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

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