We all think of hospitals as a haven where the sick and injured can go to receive expert care and ultimately get better. With that in mind, it seems odd to picture hospitals and clinics as potentially hazardous environments, but the truth is, they can be.
While health care facilities are dedicated to the well-being of their patients, staff members can face numerous on-the-job hazards that can compromise their safety and, by extension, the care their patients receive. It's crucial that hospital managers are aware of some of the hazards their employees face so they can keep everyone - patient and provider alike - safe and healthy.
The problem hospital workers face
Many people may not realize it, but working in a hospital is a job fraught with hazards. In fact, a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted that hospitals reported an average of 6.8 workplace-related injuries for every 100 employees. This means that the health care industry is nearly twice as accident-prone as the rest of private industry combined.
The consequences of this trend are unpleasant and far-reaching. Every organization suffers financially when workers are away from the office due to illness or injury, but that effect compounds in hospitals. The injured person's workload is often split between the rest of the staff, meaning they are even more overworked and therefore more likely to become ill or injured themselves. Not to mention the fact that fewer clinicians present can have a significant negative impact on the quality of care patients receive, especially in larger facilities.
What are the threats?
Interestingly, the majority of hospital-related workplace injuries comes not from contact with patients, but from physical overexertion. Improper lifting of heavy boxes or even of patients can lead to strains and put stress on the back, leading to additional injuries. Some 54 percent of injuries that required time off work were attributed to strains, OSHA noted in its report. It would also seem that hospital workers can have a hard time staying on their feet - of the top five causes of injury in a health care setting, 25 percent were due to falls.
Taking a proactive approach
Because work-related injuries can be expensive for both the company and employer, many clinics have implemented their own safety management programs. These are collaborative efforts designed to proactively anticipate possible hazard areas and address them before they cause problems. OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program outlines some ways that hospitals can take on such a task, and the results speak for themselves. The administration indicated that those practices that have implemented a VPP saw injury rates much lower than the national average.
Acquiring the tools
Part of the benefit of a safety management program is that it gives administrators a chance to collect feedback as to what could be potentially injurious before an accident happens, so they can correct the issue preemptively. This can often involve providing doctors and nurses with the tools they need to make their jobs less physically taxing. For example, some hospitals use special lifts to help transport patients, reducing the amount of physical strain put on staff members. The cost of installing these upgrades is frequently offset in a short time just in the amount of money it saves on injury and absenteeism.
Safe patient handling is one facet of worker safety, but it's a big one. By assessing and upgrading the way your hospital staff members are expected to lift, move and otherwise handle patients, you can best determine where improvements can be made. OSHA pointed out one group of hospitals that was able to reduce its handling-related accidents by 30 percent just by introducing a best-practices program.