The month of June is recognized as National Safety Month (NSM) and thousands of corporations across the country are participating in safety-related awareness events. This year’s theme is “No One Gets Hurt,” and that includes healthcare workers. Healthcare professionals are exposed to safety and health risks on the job every day, including things such as back injuries, needle sticks, bloodborne pathogens, radioactive and x-ray hazards, chemical exposures, stress, and more. In fact, according to the CDC, 20% of all non-fatal workplace injuries and illness include healthcare workers. This year, for National Safety Month, our focus is on providing tips for keeping healthcare professionals safe!
The first step toward keeping yourself safe as a healthcare professional is to bookmark this video, Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others, presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Infectious Agents. One of the greatest risks healthcare workers face is exposure to infectious organisms. Bloodborne pathogens, Hepatitis B and C, Seasonal Viruses, MRSA, and many others all provide potential danger if workers are not prepared. The most important thing you can do to minimize your risk is to be diligent about practicing hand hygiene. Using antiseptics and disinfectant on your skin before and after performing any type of procedure on a patient with the potential for exposure. It is also important to ensure that your pathogen immunizations are up to date.
Sharps. It is a certainty that healthcare workers have been through multiple forms of “sharps safety” training, but the danger is real, so it bears repeating. Healthcare professionals always have to be prepared and alert when dealing with sharp objects and needles. Always follow the agreed upon handling and disposal procedures and don’t hesitate to remind others if you see sharps being handled incorrectly.
Physical Hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare workers suffer twice the average number of injuries for overexertion as other industries. For home health workers, that rate is triple the average. Safe patient handling poses the greatest risk for healthcare professionals, and in many cases ideal solutions are scarce. In the hospital environment, workers should be adhering to the buddy system when there is no mechanical intervention available. In non-hospital settings, it is recommended that any patient handling is done according to the established protocols.
Chemical Hazards. Clearly, there are chemicals being used in the healthcare industry that pose risks if they are not handled properly. Your facility has an established hazardous substance protocol that should be followed at all times. The best way to safeguard against chemical exposure is by, 1) following all documented chemical safety protocols, and 2) always wear personal protective equipment like eye protection, gloves, and mask when handling potential hazards. Always be diligent about using PPE because the time you let your guard down will be the time you wish you had followed procedure.
Stress. Exposure to stress is a factor in most occupations at one point or another. Occupational stress for healthcare workers is higher than most. Healthcare workers have to learn to deal with short staffing, long hours, shift work, time pressures, and other factors within and out of their control. One important way healthcare workers can exert control over the stress they feel is through exercise. Implementing a regimen that includes eating healthier and physical activity will lead to better sleep habits. Other ideas include taking time for massages, “talking it out” with friends or a support group, and participating in charitable events.
How much emphasis is placed on worker safety at your healthcare facility? Are you planning on attending or organizing National Safety Month events in your workplace? Please share your best tips for healthcare worker safety in the comment section below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.