Amid the pandemic, U.S. healthcare workers experienced a 249% increase in injury and illness rates in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In fact, workers in the healthcare and social assistance industries combined suffered more injuries and illnesses than workers in any industry in the nation.
Risk management in healthcare facilities
As National Caregivers Day falls on February 18, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls on healthcare employers and those in related industries to take immediate actions to help make 2022 less hazardous and reduce worker injuries and illnesses.
“Healthcare workers routinely face the risks associated with exposures to bloodborne pathogens, drug residue, X-ray machines, respiratory illness and ergonomic injuries related to lifting patients and repetitive tasks,” said OSHA’s Acting Regional Administrator Ryan Hodge.
Security leaders in the healthcare sector can protect employees from myriad risks by creating and using a proactive worker safety and risk management program to address hazards and endorse training and preventive measures to keep workers safe.
Healthcare worker safety in action
To understand how effective a program of this kind can be, consider how Community Hospital Onaga — part of Community HealthCare System Inc.’s nonprofit healthcare system — succeeded in improving the safety and health of its workers. In 2000, the hospital in rural northeast Kansas contacted OSHA’s onsite consultation program about enhancing workplace safety. Visits by the Kansas Department of Labor’s onsite consultation program soon began.
Following those visits, Community Hospital succeeded in correcting all hazards inspectors identified, and it continued to improve its safety and health programs. By December 2002, OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program awarded the facility “SHARP” status, one of only two Kansas hospitals in the program. The facility has kept injury and illness rates below the industry average since 2002. As a result, OSHA has renewed Community Hospital’s SHARP status eight times, most recently in June 2021.
“As COVID-19 spread, Community HealthCare System implemented a plan to protect employees and clients. Other healthcare systems can follow their model by encouraging a mindset that anticipates and addresses hazards before they cause harm,” Hodge said.