Worker Safety in Hospitals
Caring for our Caregivers
One of the most important aspects of any safe patient handling program is support from the top levels of hospital administration. Employees appreciate knowing that managers care about their well-being and are much more likely to follow safe patient handling policies if management stands behind them. In Beyond Getting Started: A Resource Guide for Implementing a Safe Patient Handling Program in the Acute Care Setting, a product developed through a previous Alliance between OSHA and the Association of Occupational Health Professionals, management leadership — combined with employee participation — is listed as a key component for establishing a safe patient handling program.
At hospitals that have successfully reduced patient handling injuries, it is common to find administrators who support and promote a culture of safety. While weighing the benefits of investing in safe patient handling policies, procedures, training, and equipment, however, hospital administrators may need to fully understand how these investments impact their bottom line. Read OSHA's "Safe Patient Handling Programs: Effectiveness and Cost Savings" to learn more.
Several case studies have shown that the initial capital investment in programs and equipment needed to safely handle patients can be recovered in two to five years, particularly when equipment purchases are coupled with training and policies to produce a lasting impact. Although there can be considerable equipment, training, and infrastructure costs associated with implementing safe patient handling, hospitals with successful programs have found that the long-term benefits far outweigh economic costs. Those benefits include:
- Reduced injuries
- Decreases in lost time and workers' compensation claims
- Increased productivity
- Higher quality of work life and worker satisfaction
- Staff retention
- Better patient care and satisfaction
Management support should encompass more than just the workers responsible for direct patient care. Departments such as laundry, maintenance, and engineering are vital to supporting safe patient handling, from maintaining equipment and supplying clean slings to troubleshooting facility design issues. It is also a good idea for management to talk to and collaborate with employees' union representatives, where applicable, before launching or expanding a safe patient handling program.
The following resources provide a business decision analysis framework for making the business case for a safe patient handling program:
- In 2010, the Health Guidelines Revision Committee, Specialty Subcommittee on Patient Movement, published a white paper on Patient Handling and Movement Assessments. Chapter 3 discusses the various benefits of instituting a patient handling and movement program, financing mechanisms, how to quantify the total costs and benefits for a particular facility, and the opportunity this creates to formulate new patient handling and movement alternatives that can increase the value of a program.
- Celona et al. (2010) have been working to apply a value-driven enterprise risk management (ERM) at Stanford University Medical Center. They assert that the total value potential of safe patient handling programs can be better understood, managed, and increased using a value-driven approach to ERM.