News briefs

OSHA offers voluntary protection programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched two Voluntary Protection Programs (VPPs) — OSHA Challenge and VPP Corporate — that will expand programs to promote the safety and health of thousands more workers across the nation. "We want to continually improve OSHA’s cooperative programs and provide opportunities for more employers and employees who want to work with OSHA to create safer and healthier workplaces." said OSHA administrator John Henshaw in making the announcement. "Encouraging many more facilities to continuously improve safety and health is the most effective way to assure compliance and further reductions in injuries, illnesses, and fatalities."

Who is participating?

Fifteen companies, associations, and a federal agency will participate in the pilots based on their commitment to improve workplace safety and health programs. OSHA will evaluate both pilots after the first year. Here is a closer look at the two new VPPs:

OSHA Challenge is designed to reach employers in all industry groups who are committed to improving their safety and health management systems and want to pursue recognition for their improvements. Open to private or public-sector employees, Challenge provides a road map to improve performance and ultimately to VPP Merit or Star.

The Challenge program outlines the requirements needed to develop and implement effective safety and health management systems through incremental steps. A number of companies and associations have stepped forward as Challenge Administrators to work with employers as they move through the steps of the Challenge program. Charter Administrators are Associated Builders and Contractors, The Associated General Contractors of America, Black & Veatch, Construction Safety Council, Curtis Lumber Co., Independent Electrical Contractors, NEA — The Association of Union Constructors, and Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association.

VPP Corporate is designed to eliminate barriers faced by some corporations who want to implement VPP companywide. To participate, corporations agree to strive for corporatewide VPP implementation and to support the programs through mentoring and outreach activities. Streamlined application and on-site evaluation processes are used to facilitate implementation. Charter Participants are Dow Chemical, General Electric, Georgia Pacific, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Maytag Corp., and the U.S. Postal Service.

The Voluntary Protection Programs promotes effective worksite-based safety and health. VPP worksites save millions each year because their injury and illness rates are more than 50% below the averages for their industries. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have implemented exemplary safety and health management systems. For more information, visit

NIOSH promotes healthy lifestyles for U.S. workers

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) plans to launch a new national initiative this fall called "Steps to a Healthier U.S. Workforce," aimed at integrating worker healthy lifestyle promotion with the NIOSH mission of protecting and improving working conditions and work environment. NIOSH, along with several co-sponsors, will convene a three-day symposium on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, DC, Oct. 26-28, 2004.

The initiative recognizes that workers, families, and employers share the goal of wishing to protecting, preserving, and improving the health of people who at work. "By bringing together the health promotion and occupational safety and health communities we are seeking to highlight common interests and develop mutually supportive strategies for research and practice to improve worker health, safety, and well-being," said NIOSH director John Howard, MD, in making the announcement.

Symposium details

According to NIOSH, the symposium will:

  • Provide researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, academics, employers, and labor leaders an opportunity to share their experiences with integrated and coordinated health promotion and protection programs.
  • Assess the scientific basis for integrated approaches and suggest future directions for relevant research and improved practice;
  • Explore economic issues related to the interrelationships among work, health, health care needs, and productivity.
  • Highlight successful programs, practices, and policies of protection and promotion resulting in improved health for people at work.

NIOSH currently is identifying organizations interested in contributing to this new initiative by participating in agenda development, outreach and publicity and assisting in follow up activities. For more information about the initiative, contact Tanya Headley at For additional information, please visit the STEPS to a HealthierUS Workforce web site at

Streamline documentation for outpatient education

Documentation is becoming a routine part of patient education in inpatient settings. However, many health care providers have not yet formed this good habit in outpatient areas. Documentation of teaching in outpatient settings is important for all the same reasons that support it at a patient’s bedside within the hospital, says Marjorie Schirado, RN, patient education coordinator at Medcenter One Health Systems in Bismarck, ND. Proper documentation establishes a paper trail showing that education took place. This is important for the legal department should litigation occur.

Lack of information most common problem

Schirado says the risk management department has determined that the most common patient complaint is that the patient was not told something important or that the patient did not have enough information. With proper documentation, it is easy to trace the name of the educator, what was discussed, and what literature was provided, she says. Documentation of patient education is required by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and must be completed if an institution is to become accredited.

Documentation also helps providers

Most importantly, documentation of patient education allows providers to build on the education given by others on the health care team. "If we can see what teaching has been provided, where that person was in the learning process, and build on that, then he or she receives more continuity of education," Schirado points out.

At Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, treatment takes place in many settings, which makes it important to trace education across the continuum of care, says Megan D. Battaglia, patient education facilitator. It is not as if all the members of the team treating the patient are in the room at the same time. Therefore, it is important to document a patient’s educational needs and barriers to learning, says Battaglia.

While reasons for documenting remain similar in inpatient and outpatient settings, many issues make documentation of education different in each setting. For example, an outpatient clinic sees more patients, says Schirado. Also, educators don’t have the option of coming back in an hour or two to finish a conversation or evaluate a patient’s learning, as they do when a patient is in the hospital. On the inpatient side, education will include diagnosis, procedure, possible complications, medications, equipment, supplies, and diet. However, education in an outpatient setting focuses on one or two areas that are new for the patient, such as a change in medication or diet, she adds.

Due to these subtle differences, patient education documentation forms for outpatient areas work best if geared to the outpatient setting, says Schirado.