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Healthcare Safety

Healthcare Safety Guide in Spanish
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Back injury, bloodborne pathogens, chemicals used in the workplace, airborne diseases, slips and falls, workplace violence, and maintenance worker safety are all issues facing the healthcare industry.

Bloodborne pathogens are found in blood and other bodily fluids. Employees in a healthcare environment should treat all bodily substances as contaminated and take proper precautions against exposure to these pathogens. Precautions include wearing gloves while working with patients, using proper personal protective equipment (PPE) while cleaning up a spill, and properly disinfecting the area after an exposure has occurred. Cleaning agents must include a germicide. Bleach is also an effective germicidal agent. Training is required by OSHA for all employees that have an occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens on an annual basis.

Chemicals used in a healthcare facility are typically used for cleaning. It is recommended that all employees working with these chemicals be trained annually about the hazards associated. The health affects, physical properties, proper PPE, container labeling, and first aid should be covered during the training. The easiest way to cover this information is by using the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for that particular chemical. If you do not have an MSDS for a particular chemical, the chemical should not be used in the workplace. One can obtain an MSDS by calling the manufacturer of the chemical in question. Employees should also understand how mixing different chemicals can produce a toxic environment.

The airborne disease that causes most concern in a healthcare environment is tuberculosis (TB). TB is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis, and is spread by airborne droplets generated when a person with TB coughs, speaks, sneezes, etc. Infection occurs when a susceptible person inhales droplet nuclei containing the bacteria, which then become established in the body. It is important to know symptoms of TB. The CDC has identified TB symptoms as: productive cough, coughing up blood, weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy/weakness, night sweats, or fever. Employees working with a patient diagnosed with TB or that is suspected to have TB should be given the proper respiratory protection along with training on how and when to use this protection. TB vaccinations are available for high-risk employees.

For healthcare employees, there are high risks for slips and falls. Falls can occur from substances spilled in hallways, while assisting a resident in the bathroom, while cleaning and cooking in the kitchen, etc. Spills should be cleaned up immediately to avoid a slip hazard. Employees assisting patients in the shower should wear shoes with slip resistance and use bathtubs with entryways that allow you to move patients in and out of the area without spilling a lot of water on the floor. As a general rule, employees should wear slip-resistant shoes at all times while working.

All healthcare staff should be trained on how to defuse a potentially violent situation in the workplace. Violence can erupt from many sources. CNAs should be trained to calm an individual down prior to working with them. If a situation arises where the person cannot be calmed, the aide should leave the resident until they are calm enough to work safely with the aide. Violence can also occur from visitors entering a facility. Access to the building should be limited and security staff should know who is entering and leaving the facility. Staff should be trained to deal and defuse potential violence from all types of people:visitors, family members, friends, patients. Training should include situations where escalated violence occurs and how to best handle the situation.

The maintenance staff should also be trained in safe work practices that include: electrical safety, lockout/tagout, chemical safety, tool safety, proper lifting, and personal protective equipment selection and use. Healthcare employees face a variety of challenges. With proper employee selection and training, a facility can run smoothly with very few injuries, if any. For further assistance with establishing a safety program or training your healthcare facility personnel, please contact WCF Insurance and we will have a safety representative contact you. Additional information on nursing home safety can be found on OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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