Hospitals can be a dangerous place to work for nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, and other staff. The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) declared hospitals as one of the most hazardous places to work. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several factors make this the case, but there is also a path forward to increasing healthcare workplace safety. Hospital managers and directors should consider the risk factors and take proactive steps to protect employees.
Contributing Factors to Danger
Hospitals accept hundreds of patients every day with a range of conditions. Some might have severe mental health issues, others might be addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. When treating these types of patients, employees always face the risk of workplace violence through physical assault. It’s not uncommon for these types of patients to hit, kick, and shove medical staff.
There is a unique set of workplace hazards not usually found outside of a hospital that affect hospital employee safety. One such hazard is needle stick and sharps injuries. OHSA reports hospital-based personnel sustain an average of 384,000 needle stick injuries and other related injuries each year.
Nurses and other hospital personnel are also regularly exposed to hazardous medication when performing activities such as priming IV tubing, transferring medications, handling syringes, etc. Exposure to hazardous drugs can cause short-term and long-term problems such as rashes, infertility, and even cancer.
People steal anything from drugs to medical supplies to food when it comes to healthcare facility theft. Many times, people steal from hospitals because they don’t think there will be any retribution. For the most part, they’re right. Hospitals sometimes lack robust security systems and many have also decreased their security budget in the past few years.
While active shooter situations remain rare, more than 200 shootings occurred in hospitals between 2000 and 2015 according to research from Brown University. Of these shootings, 29% happened in the emergency room, 23% were near a parking lot, and 19% were in patient rooms.
What can hospitals do to help protect their employees?
There are many positive actions to take to improve healthcare employee safety. The first thing to consider is budget constraints and costs. Many hospitals have cut costs in the past few years, which makes it difficult to fund effective security and safety solutions. It’s important to look for effective and cost-efficient solutions to get better workplace safety. Here are some to consider:
Think apps, metal detectors, and proper identification and tracking of patients, staff, and visitors with ID badges and access control technology. Panic buttons (such as React Mobile from PDC), can be a great way to improve safety as it is a wireless, cloud-based system that’s easy and cost-efficient to implement. ]
Policies and Reporting
It’s important to have documented guidelines and policies around workplace safety. You also need to make sure there is an easy way for people to report workplace violence or other compromising situations. A lack of reporting prevents organizations from knowing the full scope of the problem, its causes, and possible solutions. It’s a huge barrier in coming up with ways to prevent and react to workplace violence.
Not only can you physically staff your facility with security personnel who have the goal of protecting employees, but you can also give them adequate tools and training to confidently do their jobs. Consider mandatory and on-going training on how to de-escalate a potentially violent situation.
Take the time to examine the state of your hospital employee safety, and then take action to update your practices. Talk to a PDC expert today about how you can take steps to make your employees safer.