Accidents happen, but mistakes become frequent when workers get used to routine tasks. The problem is not the mistakes themselves, but instances when staff oversight results in serious error. Marge McFarlane, PhD., MT (ASCP), CHSP, CHFM, HEM, MEP, CHEP and principal of Superior Perforation in Wisconsin attributes these errors to a “conscious acceptance of obvious and familiar risk”. According to her, people tend to forget about the hazards associated with routine tasks because they have a history of successful completion. Unfortunately, the risk does not decrease over time and a simple error resulting from habituation to the task can have serious consequences. Even with the best laid plans in place, employees are most likely to make mistakes when a task becomes routine because the caution associated with addressing a new task is no longer required.
Simple oversight can result in an accidental combination of lethal chemicals, for example. This happened in 2014 when a worker combined muriatic acid and chlorine. Fortunately, no one was injured in this instance, though the entire hospital had to be evacuated. This instance occurred because the worker was completing a routine task in proximity of a chlorine based pool.
Another more tragic instance involved a veteran maintenance worker at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC in October 2013. This employee was responding to a routine maintenance call regarding a broken air conditioner when an unfortunate mishap resulted in exposure to toxic fumes. The freon leak had resulted in gases which consumed the maintenance room. After exposure, the 15-year employee was taken to the emergency room but later dies. Read the NBC news article here.
Three main areas that the healthcare industry can address to reduce the risk of workplace hazards include the Fire Safety, avoiding Slips, Trips, & Falls, as well as Infection Prevention.
Fire Safety: Are fire and smoke alarms functioning properly?
Knowledge about what type of fire-stopping is used in the facility is not only a requirement of the Final Rule <LINK: /dhhs-rule-on-emergency-preparedness/> (effective November, 2016) but also aids in preventing workplace hazards. Having facility staff regularly check fire safety protocols, such as fire and smoke alarms, ensures that the facility is compliant and ready in the event of an emergency. If all staff are informed and aware of Fire safety rules and emergency planning procedures, everyone can keep an eye out for deficiencies. This can be accomplished through proper training and documentation of procedures. For more information on avoiding Fire Safety citations, please see our blog <LINK: tbd>
Slips, Trips, and Falls: Are there any obstructions in the hallways
In case of an emergency or evacuation, clear pathways ensure secure passage to safe zones. Additionally, maintaining regular adhearance OSHA’s Slips, Trips, & Falls will ensure that the facility is securly up to date on compliance and removes any concern of liability. This facilitates
immediate evacuation if needed while preventing any unnecessary injury to staff, patients, and providers.
Keeping hallways clear and following regular inspection of various floor types and areas, can prevent workplace accidents. In an emergency, when staff are quickly moving around the facility, clear hallways ensure safe passage from area to area, as well as providing quicker, unobstructed movement. This ensures that providers and staff arrive promptly to better care for patients, and safely, allowing for patient care to continue without disruption.
Infection Prevention: Is Personal Protective Equipment available and properly used?
Infection prevention is common practice in healthcare facilities. But like many of the routine tasks that employees take for granted, going through the daily practice of infection prevention protocol puts experienced employees at risk for workplace error. These facilities and equipment can be inspected on a regular basis which greatly prevents the chances of a negative outcome. EoScene provides facility compliance software that ensures all infection prevention equipment has been checked and maintained, removing one level of concern for workplace hazards.
Additionally, EoScene’s partnership with automated temperature measuring equipment can be used to monitor temperature sensitive material. Ensuring that vaccines and medications have been safely maintained in a controlled environment prevents possible contamination and exposure of patients to compromised material. Preventing infection exposure is a simple process for healthcare facilities, and keeping up to date on facility compliance reduces risk of workplace hazards associated with potential exposure.
How We Can Help EoScene provides a suite of compliance software that ensures healthcare facilities are regularly monitored. Through the software, areas identified as in need of review are automatically escalated to the appropriate personnel. If left unaddressed, the issue is escalated until completed. Making sure that facility compliance is maintained and addressed properly provides a safe environment and prevents workplace hazards. Additionally, the checklist feature of EoScene ensures that every step of compliance is completed, preventing worker oversight due to “conscious acceptance of obvious and familiar risk”.
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