Safety, defined as avoiding harm to people resulting from unsafe acts and preventable adverse events, does not differentiate among patients, staff, or others in health care settings, according to the document. "And yet, many health care organizations have 'siloed' safety programs, creating one for patients, another for workers, and yet another for others who may be at risk."
The free guide, released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, suggests clinical, human resources, and general liability personnel in health care facilities pool their efforts for the good of all. Among the advantages are reduced workers' comp costs, the document says.
Health care workers experience some of the highest rates of nonfatal occupational illness and injury -- exceeding even construction and manufacturing industries, according to the monograph. In addition to examples of practices that address patient and worker safety simultaneously and the benefits and potential cost savings attained, the monograph discusses functional management systems and processes, strategies and tools that organizations have used to integrate health and safety activities.
"The breakdowns that put both patients and workers at risk are often the same. In order to truly improve health care, organizations must implement a systemwide culture of safety," said Jerod M. Loeb, executive vice president, Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation for The Joint Commission. "By identifying the causes of breakdowns and near misses, we can learn how to make a real difference."
Adverse events that affect one group such as patients "may bring to light risks that will also endanger another group, workers, since the underlying causes -- and therefore solutions -- are often the same," the document states. "Failure to share the learning that occurs in different contexts within different groups and in different sites compromises an organization's ability to efficiently and effectively improve safety for all those within the organization."
The guide provides examples of various intervention efforts and shows the potential benefits to patients, employees, and the organization as a whole. Daily huddles that focus on improved safety culture and teamwork, for example, can enhance morale, improve employee satisfaction, and decrease fatigue among workers. It can increase satisfaction and reduce adverse events among patients. For the organization, the huddles may result in decreased litigation, improved reputation, and decreased turnover.
Efforts to improve safe patient handling such as patient lifting equipment, no-lift policies, and specialized lift teams can speed ambulation and prevent falls among patients, and reduce musculoskeletal injuries among workers, thereby decreasing workers' comp claims.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
January 10, 2013
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