Q&A: Interview With a Hospital Locksmith

Hospital Hospital locksmith's job includes all kinds of door hardware, access control and electronics.


Locksmithing is a diverse industry, with sectors include residential, automotive, commercial, industrial and institutional. Locksmiths provide security/life safety as well as key/door control for exterior and interior doors.We service locks that have been manufactured and sold for just about...


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Locksmithing is a diverse industry, with sectors include residential, automotive, commercial, industrial and institutional. Locksmiths provide security/life safety as well as key/door control for exterior and interior doors.We service locks that have been manufactured and sold for just about everything that can be locked and a few that probably should never be. To make a living, we need to be knowledgeable about locks manufactured in many countries as well as those “made in the U.S.A.”

Institutional locksmiths work for educational facilities and school districts, manufacturing facilities, government and medical/hospitals. Within each of these facilities, many different lock manufacturers’ products may be installed. The locksmiths need to know how to service them and must be knowledgeable on different types of lock and related hardware as well as the rules, regulations, acts and agencies that govern facilities.
For this article, we chose to interview a hospital locksmith. Our locksmith very graciously shared his experiences and the unique aspects of working in a hospital. However, due to security reasons, we cannot be more specific about this large medical facility or the locksmiths who maintain it.

Following are Locksmith Ledger’s questions and our hospital locksmith’s answers.

Prior to this interview, I did not realize the degree to which hospitals are regulated. There are government agencies, acts, laws and regulations. Can you describe a few of them?

Not in any order, they are:
The Joint Commission – Nationwide: The Joint Commission ensures hospitals and medical related facilities follow specific regulations for safety and patient care. This includes securing pharmaceuticals, keying systems and controlling access to name a few of the tasks which locksmiths can be responsible. The Joint Commission has an affect on government funding including reimbursement.

Homeland Security – Nationwide: Homeland Security regulates controlling access to radioactive materials. Part of the regulations is that anyone who has access to radioactive materials is required to be fingerprinted and undergo a background check. All locksmiths are required to have background checks. In addition, locks securing hospital radioactive material must not be  master keyed.

Board of Pharmacy: Pharmacy regulations are an important ingredient of our daily activities. Years ago, if a medication drawer key was taken off the unit, the locksmith would be called to change the keys out and re-supply the unit with keys, no matter the day or hour. Today, we are finding electronic access using “Prox”-equipped employee identification badges work better for the nursing staff. This includes securing certain narcotics that require dual key access.

Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development – California: O.S.H.P.D. is tasked with structural, electrical and fire/safety reliability of all hospital construction in the State of California. Locksmiths are involved in access control and related hardware. Any hardwire electrical runs must be submitted for approval and permitting, prior to work starting. Another area under their purview is door replacement, which includes locking hardware.

Department of Health Services – California: DHS has codes that affect operation.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA): For locksmiths, HIPAA requires healthcare providers to guard the confidentiality of Protected Health Information (PHI).
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

National Fire Protection Association, Life Safety Code, known as NFPA 101
Annual and semi-annual unannounced inspections are made by the different agencies/offices to ensure compliance. If the hospital/facility is out of compliance, there are a variety of possible penalties from re-inspections to financial penalties to closure of the facility.
There can sometimes be conflict between these agencies. To be safe, our policy is to follow the most strenuous regulation, etc. This ensures the best care possible for our patients.

As with any locksmith, there is a fine balance between providing the appropriate security while maintaining life safety.
You have used the term “Hospital thinking.” Would you please explain and give a few examples?

“Hospital thinking” involves knowing and providing for the proper lock hardware and function, in a given setting. Like all locksmiths, our priority is to make the hospital as secure as possible and still meet all applicable codes. Part of that process is using hardware that will stand up to the amount of use and abuse found in the particular setting. Therefore, we have made it policy that lock hardware in the hospital is Grade one, where adjacent facilities might have Grade two depending upon traffic levels. Our goal is to use hardware that is appropriate for the application, the amount of use and to maximize the cost effectiveness.

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