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Assistant Secretary David Michaels' Press Statement
New Hospital Worker Safety Resources
Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

Moderator (Mary Brandenberger): Thank you for joining today's press call. I'm here with Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. We're also joined today by Dr. Lucian Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and chairman of the Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation; Dr. Erin S. DuPree, chief medical officer and vice president of the Joint Commission; and Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

I'd like to first turn it over to Dr. Michaels.

Dr. Michaels: Thank you for joining us this afternoon.

I am pleased to announce that today the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new educational web resource with extensive materials to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs and implement safety and health management systems.

These new materials can help prevent hospital worker injuries and improve patient safety, while reducing costs.

The heart of these new materials are real life lessons from high performing hospitals who have implemented best practices to reduce workplace injuries while also improving patient safety.

From a hospital in Austin Texas, to a medical center in Bradenton Florida, to hospitals in Ohio and around the country, these materials highlight hospitals that have embraced a culture of safety - that benefit both patients and workers.

Hospital workers face serious hazards. Musculoskeletal injuries are the single biggest worker injury in hospitals. Many back, neck, and shoulder injuries come from manually lifting and repositioning patients. Other hazards facing hospital workers include workplace violence, slips and falls, exposure to chemicals including hazardous drugs, exposure to infectious diseases and needlesticks. In 2012, U.S. hospitals recorded nearly 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, almost 58,000 of which caused employees to miss work.

Work-related injuries and illnesses also contribute to higher costs for care in hospitals. Nationwide, workers' compensation losses result in a total annual expense of $2 billion for hospitals.

Safer workplaces also mean safer patient care, successful strategies to improve patient safety and worker safety go hand in hand.

Today, I am very pleased to announce the launch of our new web page to help hospitals prevent injuries and illnesses, improve the quality of care, and save money.

The web page contains a suite of guidance products to help hospitals assess workplace safety needs, implement comprehensive safety and health management systems, and enhance safe patient handling programs. The guidance products include fact books, self-assessments and best practices. The website and guidance products are available at: http://www.osha.gov/hospitals.

Improving safety requires a transformation of the workplace culture in the hospital industry. We recognize that the best way to develop a culture of safety is through a comprehensive safety and health management system. OSHA's new educational products describe the elements of effective safety and health management systems, highlight best practices from hospital leaders who have successfully implemented such programs, and provide tools for hospitals to assess their progress. The good news is that our new tools can and should be blended with ongoing hospital efforts to build high reliability organizations.

The website also contains information to help prevent the most common type of injuries in hospitals-injuries from manually lifting and moving patients. Effective safe patient handling programs reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders - the number one workplace injury in hospitals. OSHA's new guidance products will help hospitals develop and implement safe patient handling assessments, policies, procedures, programs, training, and patient education.

We urge all hospitals executives that are ready to protect workers, enhance patient safety, and save money to go to www.osha.gov/hospitals, take the self-assessment, compare your hospital with benchmarks from high performing hospitals, and use OSHA's new tools to enhance your hospital's safety culture.

I am joined today by Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. Lucian Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and Chairman of the Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation, and Dr. Erin S. DuPree, chief medical officer and vice president of the Joint Commission. These individuals, and their organizations, have done tremendously important work on integrating worker safety and patient safety. The Joint Commission and NIOSH developed a tremendously useful monograph entitled "Improving Patient and Worker Safety: Opportunities for Synergy, Collaboration and Innovation;" and NPSF has issued a truly groundbreaking, thought provoking white paper "Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care."

I now turn the call over to Dr. Erin S. DuPree, chief medical officer and vice president of the Joint Commission.

Dr. Erin DuPree: Thank you Doctor Michaels, and thank you to OSHA for releasing this toolkit that promotes the value of establishing a culture of safety.

The Joint Commission and Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare are passionate about promoting the framework for high reliability which includes establishing a culture of safety. Many of our accredited hospitals have made great strides in how they are addressing patient and worker safety. Without an established organization-wide culture of safety, neither patients nor workers can ever truly be safe.

In 2012, The Joint Commission released a monograph titled "Improving Patient and Worker Safety, Opportunities for Synergy, Collaboration and Innovation." The monograph was created to stimulate greater awareness of the potential synergies between patient and worker safety activities. These new tools from OSHA help to advance those goals by providing practical solutions.

It is important to emphasize that a successful safety program cannot be separated into silos with programs for workers unrelated to those for patients. The underlying causes of worker injury are often the same causes of injury to patients; therefore, the solutions need to be shared.

The growing evidence that employee well-being affects patient safety, both directly and indirectly, suggests that healthcare organizations striving for high reliability should be concerned with safety for both patients and workers. Leaders need to value and empower their workers.

They need to understand that fear of reprisal and failure to share knowledge can compromise an organization's ability to improve safety for all. Fortunately, many solutions can lead to improved outcomes for both patients and workers.

The materials being released today offer organizations a valuable set of tools including the comparison of our standards and OSHA's requirements. For example, in the comparison document you will see that The Joint Commission also requires a written plan for managing environmental safety for patients and everyone in the hospital, and The Joint Commission expects that all individuals who work in the hospital are able to openly discuss issues of safety and quality.

Patients and workers both deserve to be safe. We at The Joint Commission applaud the commitment of the many hospitals that are that focused on establishing a culture of safety in which workers are empowered to speak up and leaders listen and take action, they are to be commended for promoting the concepts of high reliability.

Thank you.

Dr. Michaels: Thank you, Dr. DuPree. I now turn to Dr. Lucian Leape, adjunct professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and chairman of the Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation.

Dr. Lucian Leape:

Dr. Michaels: Thank you, Dr. Leape. We are now joined by Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Dr. John Howard:

Moderator: At this time, we would like to open up the line for any questions. Please state your name and media affiliation and/or trade publication prior to posing your question.


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