Prioritizing Workplace Safety in Healthcare Facilities
By: Kevin Klaahsen, Loss Control Specialist with RAS
Developing and maintaining an active risk management program can be a challenge for any employer. Healthcare facilities are no different and face many of the same obstacles that other industries are challenged with overcoming.
In my experience of providing risk assessments to various facilities over the last five years I noticed an increased focus on taking safety to the next level not only for the benefit of the patient but also employees. Whether it’s through the formation of a safety committee, the implementation of a formal new hire safety orientation, or scheduling specific department meetings, there are a number of possibilities that can be utilized.
Understanding the environmental and vocational hazards of your individual workplace is key to unlocking the door to providing the proper training and resources needed to maintain a safe working environment for everyone. Having a proper hazard assessment completed gives you the ability to see into areas that otherwise may get overlooked during the course of routine business operations. While facilities management is an important piece of this puzzle it provides only a portion of what a complete risk management program can be.
There are many variations and tools that can be utilized and I’ve created a simple acronym to help you begin the process of implementing some best work practices into your safety program.
K = Knowledge
Knowledge is power and with the amount of resources that are available in our world via the internet, your organization’s intranet, or material provided by your insurance agency/provider there is a wealth of new, fresh, and relevant training materials available. Take advantage and use them for your benefit.
E = Encourage
Encouragement is vital for keeping employees thinking about not only the safety of themselves but the safety of their coworkers. If they know they have the support, resources, and proper training, they are more likely than not to say something if they see something. This involves working together collectively to resolve the issue. Keep it positive and encourage your employees to be safe at all times.
E = Empower
Empowering staff is essential to having them give constructive feedback on safety issues and concerns. If they don’t feel comfortable telling someone about a problem, they more than likely will keep it to themselves. Allowing them to be part of the discussion rather than the topic of discussion will give them a sense of fulfillment and unity. This can be as simple as a discussion box in the break room where they can leave safety suggestions.
P = Proactive
Be proactive and not reactive when it comes to the safety of your employees. Take care of problems right away. Avoid waiting to provide training on slips/trips/falls until after it is trending on your losses. Provide the training before it becomes a problem. This also includes items such as providing safe patient handling/lifting techniques before you see an uptick in back strains and sprains.
E = Enforcement
You can have the best written safety program and policies around; however, if they are not enforced, they provide little to no benefit. Develop a level of accountability within departments that allows them to actively encourage each other when they see a situation that is unsafe. This can include a form of corrective action or retraining if the safety violations are continually being violated.
R = Return to Work
Having a formal and active return to work policy implemented is extremely important when dealing with any form of on the job injury. Avoiding lost time due to an injury and being willing to make light duty accommodations will benefit both the employee and employer. If onsite light duty is unavailable be sure to inquire about off-site transitional duty, if available.
These are some, but not all of the basic principles that can be utilized in developing your risk management and safety program.