Healthcare News & Insights

New OSHA website gives hospitals tips to reduce injuries, improve patient handling

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently launched a new website filled with resources to help hospitals keep both patients and staffers safe from injuries that may arise from patient handling.

120103800 (2)The new site gives hospitals ideas to reduce their rate of worker injuries and decrease the likelihood these injuries will hurt patients.

A cost drain

As a whole, hospitals have high rates of on-the-job injuries compared to many other industries. According to a news release issued by OSHA about the site, there were 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in hospitals in 2012, the most recent year for which stats were available.

Not only did these issues cause employees to miss work, they also led to $2 billion in workers’ comp losses for hospitals. And it’s even more expensive when considering factors such as employee overtime to make up for the loss of an injured staffer, and turnover costs if the injured employee – or an overworked staffer pulling double shifts – ends up quitting.

In this current financial climate, financial losses of any kind hit hospitals hard. So it’s even more crucial to reduce preventable budget drains like workplace accidents.

Role of patient handling

To reduce staff injuries at hospitals, it’s important to fix the root of the problem. Most hospital injuries can be attributed to patient handling. OSHA’s site states that 48% of injuries to hospital workers happen due to overexertion, or when staffers are bending, reaching or lifting – common motions when caring for patients, particularly when moving or transporting them.

Patients can be directly harmed by these injuries, too. Example: If a staffer lifts a patient manually without proper assistance and gets hurt, the patient’s more likely to suffer a fall or fracture, or receive pressure ulcers or bruises.

So it’s key for your hospital to monitor and control preventable injuries for staffers, especially those caused by improper patient handling.

4 steps for improvement

OSHA’s site offers a self-assessment for hospitals to complete with four steps to audit and improve your patient-handling process:

  1. Understand the magnitude of the problem. Find out just how many injuries can be attributed to improper patient handling. Look at injury logs, check workers’ comp records and talk with HR to determine how big of an issue this is for your hospital.
  2. Find out who is getting hurt, where and how. See which staffers are being hurt most in your hospital when handling patients so you can tailor the problem to their specific needs.
  3. Explore the effects on patient care. Review your rates of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers per 1,000 patients, your rate of patient falls with injury per 1,000 days, and the number of patient injuries sustained from a manual lift, transfer or repositioning.
  4. Identify existing strengths and opportunities for improvement. Ask yourself questions like:
    • Do we have a written safe-patient-handling policy or program, and are all employees aware of it?
    • How many safe-patient-handling best practices do we currently have in place?
    • Does our hospital minimize the use of manual lifting, transfers or repositioning?
    • Do caregivers have easy access to equipment to assist with patient handling (e.g., slide sheets, portable lifts or ceiling-mounted lifts)?

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