Here’s an interesting fact: In the US, non-fatal injuries and illnesses within the workplace are highest among healthcare workers. Unfortunately, most healthcare providers are exposed to at least some risk daily – be it stress, exposure to bloodborne pathogens, latex allergy, needlestick, or just a back injury. And no, doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones exposed to risk. Every healthcare employee, including attendants, nursing aides, orderlies, and managerial staff, are also at risk of illness and non-fatal injuries.
Eliminating every risk associated with working within the healthcare industry isn’t possible. Still, acting on the following five health and safety tips will reduce the risk of illness or injury for staff members.
1. Fire safety training
While the number of fires in hospice facilities and hospitals is declining with every passing year, NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) reported an annual average of approximately 5700 incidents between 2011 and 2016. Since operating rooms contain flammable materials, including cloth drapes, antiseptic agents, nitrous oxide, hydrogen, methane, alcohol, and oxygen, there’s always a risk.
Therefore, healthcare facilities must take proper precautions to avoid any fire-related catastrophe. For example, keeping electrocautery tools in the right place, using fire-retardant surgical drapes, and preventing the build-up of flammable gases. It is also essential for hospital staff to be ready beforehand if an unfortunate event occurs and fire goes out of control. Continuous education helps achieve such preparedness. Non-clinical staff can enroll in a masters in healthcare management degree to upskill their managerial expertise and develop a proper plan/drill for workplace safety and emergencies. But in a nutshell, if there’s a fire, every healthcare worker should do the following:
- Use a fire extinguisher to control the situation
- Close doors and windows to contain the fire
- Activate the fire alarm
- Rescue anyone in the immediate vicinity
Healthcare facilities should also conduct fire drills regularly for training their employees, especially on how to ensure patient safety.
2. Training to ensure safety against chemical hazards
The Healthcare industry uses many chemicals, some of which may cause severe diseases like development disorders, asthma, neurological disorders, reproductive disorders, and cancer. These hazardous chemicals typically include triclosan, bisphenol A, phthalates, and mercury. Some healthcare workers are at risk of exposure to chemotherapeutic medications and agents, which can be dangerous and must be handled with care.
OSHA has stated that healthcare facilities should train employees on how to handle hazardous substances with care. In addition, medical professionals should have access to safety data sheets containing information on the chemical composition of chemicals and their potential dangers. Not to mention, when handling hazardous chemicals, healthcare professionals should wear PPE to prevent physical harm.
3. Utilization of proper devices to reduce risk of musculoskeletal injuries
Staff who have to transfer patients onto wheelchairs and beds are at risk of incurring musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries include ruptured tendons and cartilage, nerve damage, and stress on ligaments, joints, muscles, bones, head, neck, limbs, or back. In the long haul, these can aggravate if not timely addressed.
Therefore, healthcare professionals should use assistive devices such as electronic hoists, slings, and slip sheets whenever possible. These devices can come in handy in safeguarding staff from severe pain and musculoskeletal disorders, and also protect patients from falling over. If you can’t access these devices, reduce the risk of injury by using the proper body mechanics. For instance, when lifting an immobile patient, bend your knees and keep your feet apart.
4. Avoiding injuries from sharp objects
Medical facilities use several sharp objects such as needles, knives, and scalpels that may also become contaminated with infected blood or fluids. Often, healthcare professionals use them without caution and end up cutting/bruising themselves. It is necessary to follow the correct disposal procedures for such objects and waste to mitigate any health risks. Plus, sharps injuries exponentially increase the risk of infectious diseases, which is why healthcare professionals must be careful when handling them.
If possible, try avoiding the usage of needles when dispending medication. Today, numerous medical facilities and hospitals within the US have cut back on using needles by switching to hands-free techniques. Other practices to eliminate or mitigate the risk of sharp injuries include:
- Using disposable gloves
- Passing non-disposable sharp instruments through stringent cleaning methods
- Using scalpel blades and blunt suture needles with rounded tips
- No recapping of needles
- Disposing of syringes at the point of use in a safety box
5. Taking precautions against bloodborne pathogens
Healthcare professionals are exposed to bloodborne pathogens because they usually come in contact with the body fluids of patients. In such cases, body fluids like blood can transmit viral and bacterial infections. When a healthcare professional comes in contact with such fluids, the risk for infection increases by leaps and bounds. Therefore, staff should wear PPE and take appropriate precautions to avoid cross-contamination. With the correct face shield, safety goggles, gloves, and gowns, doctors and nurses can protect their skin from coming into contact with these harmful fluids.
Healthcare facilities should also regularly disinfect spaces and reduce the presence and spread of micro-organisms that cause infections. Following are some of the best practices:
- Decontamination and cleaning of instruments
- Using disinfectant and antiseptics on skin before an IV injection or a surgical procedure
- Practicing hand hygiene
Healthcare professionals should be immunized against airborne/bloodborne pathogens, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
There’s no doubt that healthcare professionals are exposed to a ton of safety hazards right from the point they step into the hospital. However, senior management in such facilities should ensure the workplace is as safe as possible. Plus, healthcare professionals should follow SOPs provided by the administration to remain safe in the constantly changing environment of the healthcare facility.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.