The OSHA Inspection
I promised I’d never tell this story until we vacated the old office. We have so here goes.
Back in the old days when they enacted OSHA we all grumbled. I did too, but I knew we’d have to cope with it.
Soon a new industry sprung up of folks who you hired to prepare you for OSHA. It wasn’t hard to see what this meant. Most of them were former OSHA inspectors who gave it up to go into the more lucrative consultant business. For a fee they could ‘OSHA’ proof you. We knew if we had them come through, we’d survive OSHA. In a way it was like protection money.
Of course, very little of this had a thing to do with patient care. For my European friends who are perplexed by American ways, it is sad but simple. The whole thing was about money.
One year OSHA came to town. They showed up over at the urology office. A nurse pal of Myrd’s called to give us a head’s up. The urology office passed, but did get one ding for an open SunDrop Cola. I guess that makes sense. After all, it is one of those yellow drinks. Besides, those urology docs don’t care for soft drinks anyway. They took me off of ‘em after my last kidney stone.
I always thought it would be poetic justice for one of those little regulator fellows to come down with a stone while at the urology office. Can’t you just see Dr. Johnson standing over him? “Have we passed inspection yet? We can’t treat you until we are OSHA approved.”
Myrd came to warn me OSHA was in town. “You better go get your lab coat,’ she said.
“Where did I leave it?”
“It’s in the blue room. Lynn put it there after OSHA KLEAR (O.K.) was here last year.”
“Did you fix the directions on the map?”
“Naw. OSHA KLEAR didn’t notice. OSHA won’t either.” So far, no one had noticed except me, Myrd, and Lynn, and none of us had any trouble figuring how to get out of the office anyway.
She shook her head. When OSHA first cranked up all these high powered consultants offered to draw up some kind of fancy maps with directions on how to find the exits. We elected to do it our own way. The fee was exorbitant, and I knew patients would never look at it anyway.
Besides, our emergency plan worked fine. If the power went out I’d get my office Martin guitar and lead all the patients to the middle hall. I had a friend who was an engineer and he said it was the safest area for everyone in the event of a tornado. “Just follow the music, guys,” I’d tell the patients. I was like some kinda hillbilly doctor pied piper, but it worked. You gotta be what you are.
Still, we knew we had to have some sort of maps posted to comply with OSHA regulations, so we had the kids draw them up, put them in some frames from the Dollar Store, and then placed them around the office. Most of them were quite good, but as predicted no one ever paid the maps any attention. One day I realized if you followed the directions on one of the maps it would lead you into a closet with no exit. I envisioned the marching band in ‘Animal House’ when they made a wrong turn in the parade and all the trombone players smashed their slides into the wall at the end of the alley. The image of everyone in the office being dumb enough to pile up in there was too much for me. I never took it down.
“You’re gonna get a fine one of these days,” Myrd warned.
”Betcha twenty bucks they don’t notice.”
After OSHA checked the urology office, they came to our place.
The fellow was a little guy who looked like a bank examiner and had about that much humor too. He was bald on top, but had grown some hair on the sides real long and pasted it over the top of his head. He peered over his glasses. “Are you are Dr. Bibey?”
“And what have you done to prepare?”
“We have OSHA KLEAR come in every year. Passed at 98%. ‘OSHA KLEAR every year.’ Great slogan huh?”
He didn’t laugh. ”Were there any deficiences?”
“Uh, well, yeah there was one. We left out some perfume.”
“Perfume?” He made a note.
“Oh, not me. One of the ladies up front. She was reprimanded, though. We’re cool now.”
“Can I show you around?” I asked.
“No thanks. I will inspect on my own.” He hung around about a half hour, then found me. “All looks to be in order. However, please, no crackers at the nursing station.” He tore off a sheet of paper with his findings. “Please keep this for your records.”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry. The crackers were half my fault.”
“Yes, sir. I assume they were Nip Chee. Me and Lynn O’Carroll split a pack and a Co-Cola every day at three. ’Schools out,’ you know. You ought to try some. Those Lance crackers are the best even after they took the lard out of ‘em.”
He made another note.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“No, you passed. 96%.”
“Please.” He wrinkled his brow, squinted, and took another look at me. “You look familiar. Don’t I know you?”
“Tommy Bibey. I play mandolin with Neuse River. Bluegrass.”
“Yes sir.” I walked over to the cabinet and found him a CD. “Here, take one with you.”
“I’m sorry. We can not accept gifts.”
“Hell, it ain’t a bribe, man. You already said we passed.”
He almost smiled. “Okay.” He turned to leave.
“Oh one more thing,” I said.
“Be careful. On your last turn go left instead of right. Last year a patient wound up in the closet ’cause they didn’t read the signs.”
I thought Lynn and Myrd were both gonna kill me. I put my white coat back in the blue room to await next year’s OSHA KLEAR visit. Indie always did say I was a good Boy Scout. You know; ’Be Prepared.’
I sure am glad the government comes around every so often to help me. I don’t know what I’d do without ‘em.
I won’t tell you the regulator’s name, but later he became a bluegrass fan. I promised him I wouldn’t give him up. The government has our SSNs so they would know whether or not we are HIPAA compliant and respect privacy. I was hip to HIPAA before HIPAA was cool. The man can’t afford to be caught hanging out with me. He needs his job, and I don’t want to get him in trouble with his boss, so we stay under the privacy radar.
But the government needs to be warned. He is now one of us.
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