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Environmental Safety in the Physician Office Practice

Proactive safety management helps to ensure a safe environment in the physician office practice. The following recommendations can be used as a guide in the development of an environmental safety plan.

Environmental Safety Plan

Develop a safety plan that describes how to maintain a safe environment. Include the role of the physicians and employees. Conduct walk-around inspections on a regular basis to identify potential risks. Correct identified risks. Encourage physicians and employees to report unsafe or potentially hazardous conditions. Immediately remedy high risk situations.

Plan Elements

Life Safety: Office Setting

  • Arrange furniture away from traffic areas.
  • Remedy sharp table corners and worn carpeting.
  • Install call bells and safety bars in patient restrooms.
  • Remove clutter, equipment, and obstacles from walkways.
  • Limit height of stacked materials to prevent collapse.
  • Maintain stairwells with firmly attached handrails and adequate lighting.
  • Identify glass doors with emblems.
  • Clearly mark all exits.
  • Check emergency exit signs for visibility and lighting.
  • Test emergency lighting.
  • Allow only toys large enough to prevent swallowing with no breakable pieces or sharp edges; clean toys routinely.

Life Safety: Grounds and Parking Areas

  • Remove snow from parking areas and walkways as needed.
  • Frequently sand/treat icy areas.
  • Repair uneven surfaces, potholes, and cracks.
  • Remove debris.
  • Maintain adequate lighting to minimize shadows; replace burned out bulbs.
  • Install signage to identify parking entrances and exits.

Life Safety: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Fall Prevention

  • Closely monitor occupants of waiting areas. Observation may be accomplished with mirrors.
  • Clearly identify wet floors and steps with a warning sign.
  • Seat the patient in a chair in the exam room, not on the exam table, while awaiting the physician. Do not leave a patient alone if they are at risk for a fall.
  • Provide chairs in exam rooms that are stable (no wheels) and have armrests. Provide exam tables that are stable with easy access for patients.
  • Assist unstable patients with accessing the exam table, opening doors, or maneuvering through corridors.

Electrical Hazards

  • Keep electrical outlets in good condition.
  • Store electrical cords appropriately to prevent tripping hazards.
  • To maintain child safety, utilize plugs for electrical outlets or install child safe outlets.

Equipment Safety

  • Properly ground equipment.
  • Inspect office equipment for functionality and integrity.
  • Follow manufacturer requirements for preventative maintenance and safe usage.
  • Store oxygen tanks that are not in active use in upright stands or chained together to prevent falling and explosive discharge of contents. Store oxygen away from flammable items.

Fire Safety

  • Develop a fire safety plan for your practice.
  • Conduct fire drills as required by state and local ordinances.
  • Identify evacuations routes for office practice.
  • Assure elevators have signage warning not to use in a fire emergency.
  • Place fire alarms and fire extinguishers in an accessible area.
  • Service fire extinguishers annually.
  • Install No Smoking signage in designated areas.
  • Routinely inspect sprinkler system.

Hazardous Materials; Infection Control

  • Label and store hazardous products in appropriate containers in a locked storeroom.
  • Provide sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment.
  • Maintain Safety Data Sheets (SDS) in a central office location or electronically. Ensure that all employees have access to the SDS.
  • Obtain a spill kit to manage accidental spills of contaminated material.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand rub when sinks are not accessible.
  • Store needles and syringes in a locked area.
  • Dispose of needles and sharps in approved containers that are puncture resistant and have a lid that prevents reaching in. Label as hazardous material.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Ensure federal, state, and local standards have been met regarding disaster preparations.
  • Conduct various mock emergency drills to test response, skills, equipment, and proficiency.

Medical Emergency

  • Develop a plan for addressing medical emergencies in the practice.
  • Train staff to respond to medical emergencies.
  • Conduct periodic drills of your medical emergency plan.
  • Locate all emergency equipment in an accessible location.
    • Inspect emergency equipment monthly for proper functioning. Record inspections on a log.
  • If applicable, emergency drug box is maintained by completing the following:
    • Inspect the emergency drug box monthly for supply adequacy and medication outdates. Record inspections on a log stored inside the drug box.
    • Resupply the emergency drug box after each use.
    • Maintain a breakaway lock on the emergency drug box.
    • Store in a central location inaccessible to patients.

Medication Safety

  • Store medications throughout the practice in a lockable space accessible only to authorized personnel.
  • Secure prescription pads from unauthorized access. Do not store prescription pads in a drawer in an examination room.
  • Perform refrigerator temperature checks each day (twice daily for vaccines) and record on a monthly log.
  • Dispose of opened multi-dose medication vials 28 days after opening. Label opened multi-dose vials with date opened and/or date of expiration. For Joint Commission accredited facilities, label with date of expiration. Per the CDC Immunization Program, discard opened multi-dose vaccines according to the manufacturer's expiration date.
  • If medication samples are in the office practice, please reference our practice tip Medications: Distribution of Sample Medications in the Practice Setting.

Environmental Safety Education

  • Educate new physicians and staff on safety practices and expectations.
  • Provide annual safety education to physicians and employees.
  • Train physicians and staff on the proper use of equipment and recognition of product hazards.

Medical office practices should review the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) A Guide to Compliance with OSHA Standards to assure your practice is in compliance with all OSHA standards.

A Safety Walk-around Checklist is accessible in the Forms section of our website.


Americans with Disabilities Act