NJM Blog

5 Keys to a Successful Healthcare Workplace Safety Program

5 Keys to a Successful Healthcare Workplace Safety Program

Many hospitals and healthcare organizations are faced with understaffing issues as a result of budget limitations and/or a lack of qualified care providers. According to a study commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030. And the labor shortage isn’t limited to doctors — it also includes registered nurses and a wide variety of other healthcare professionals.

Understaffing can increase the risk of injuries because of the pressure to work faster and the absence of support to assist with tasks such as patient transfers. These injuries can lead to workers’ compensation claims that are not only expensive, but can also lead to time away from work, sometimes exacerbating staffing issues. As workforce shortages continue to plague the healthcare industry, keeping current employees healthy and ensuring they adhere to workplace safety procedures is increasingly essential.

Establishing and enforcing a safety program offers myriad benefits and is a vital component of a safe workplace. Whether you’re creating or optimizing your program, make sure it contains the following five pillars:

  1. Safety–First Culture. To be successful, a workplace safety program requires a company-wide commitment, from executive leadership down to the newest employee. Buy–in from the executive team — and management who leads by example — is essential to sustaining positive cultural shifts. Remind employees that safety takes priority over productivity — an accident can negatively affect productivity much more than the extra seconds it takes to engage in safe practices. Make a conscious effort to identify and mitigate high–risk situations, and constantly be on the lookout for workplace safety hazards (and encourage your employees to do the same).

  2. Clear Guidelines and Consequences. Create a precise policy for workplace safety that’s regularly communicated to employees. The policy should be experienced by every employee every day, and consistent consequences should be enforced for failure to adhere to it.

  3. Adequate Resources and Training. Provide proper resources for workplace safety including staff, training, and equipment. Labor shortages may require the use of agency staff — if so, it’s a healthcare organization’s responsibility to make sure those employees are properly trained upon hire, upon receiving new equipment, upon noticing new hazards, and sporadically.

  4. Proper Reporting and Investigation. If an incident occurs, make sure your employees are empowered to report it and receive prompt and suitable medical attention. All workplace accidents should be investigated so your company can learn from them; past claims can help identify injury patterns or high–risk scenarios.

  5. Worker Participation. Employee involvement is essential in both the design and operation of a workplace safety program. Front–line workers can often identify potential safety and health hazards and are more likely to support and engage in programs when they’ve provided input.

Preventing workplace injuries is in everyone’s best interest; a culture of workplace safety can positively impact employees, patients, and a company’s bottom line. Not only can preventing work–related accidents and illnesses help reduce your workers’ compensation losses, it can also keep employees at work.