Jobs in the health care field can be highly rewarding, and sometimes (unfortunately) highly risky. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the likelihood of injury or illness resulting in days away from work is higher in hospitals than in construction and manufacturing workplaces—two industries that are known to be especially hazardous.
From back injuries (courtesy of lifting patients) to needle sticks (courtesy of a violent patient), accidents can happen at any time. By taking steps to prevent injuries on the job, you’re safeguarding your employees—and your healthcare facility.
The price of workers’ comp claims in healthcare
The average workers’ compensation claim for a hospital injury between 2006 and 2011 was $15,860, according to a national survey of about 1,000 hospitals. If your facility is self-insured, as most are, you’ll bear the full cost. If your facility isn’t self-insured, you still can expect workers’ comp claims to affect your insurance premiums.
The average hospital experiences $0.78 in workers’ compensation losses for every $100 of payroll. Nationwide, workers’ compensation losses cost hospitals $2 billion each year, according to OSHA.
When a health care employee gets hurt on the job, the facility pays the price in several ways, including:
- Workers’ compensation for lost wages and medical costs
- Temporary staffing, backfilling, and overtime when injured employees miss work
- Turnover costs when an injured employee quits
- Decreased productivity and morale as employees become physically and emotionally fatigued
The causes of health care worker injuries
Sometimes, in their attempts to “do no harm” to patients, health care providers put their own safety and health at risk to help a patient.
The top 5 causes of injuries to health care workers are:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction – 48%
- Slips, trips, and falls – 25%
- Contact with objects and equipment – 13%
- Violence – 9%
- Exposure to substances – 4%
How to keep health care workers safe
Eight out of 10 nurses say that they frequently work with musculoskeletal pain. Studies show that workplace injuries not only affect employees but also can affect patient care. Manual lifting injuries can put patients at risk of falls, fractures, bruises, and skin tears, while caregiver fatigue, injury, and stress have been linked to a higher risk of medication errors and patient infections.
Safety practices at health care facilities are regulated by federal, state, and accrediting bodies. Here are some resources you and your staff can review to help ensure that your facility is meeting those standards:
- OSHA Health & Safety Standards for Healthcare Facilities
- CDC Guidelines for Protecting the Safety and Health of Healthcare Workers
- OSHA Hospital Safety Self-Assessment
- Tools & Resources for Creating a Health & Safety Management System in Healthcare
- OSHA Guidelines for Safe Patient Handling
- OSHA Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare
- OSHA Prevalent Hazards & Solutions for Nursing Homes and Personal Care Facilities
- OSHA Safety & Health Programs Nursing Homes and Personal Care Facilities
- Press Ganey Healthcare Safety Resources
Be sure that all employees, even part-time help and trainees, are well-trained in safety procedures.
How to plan for the unexpected
While you can’t plan for every type of emergency, every workplace should have a plan for dealing with a variety of scenarios, including hazmat emergencies, mass casualties, lockdowns, fires, and incidents of violence. All workers should be trained on what’s in the plan, and what they should do specifically in the case of an emergency.
How to incentivize safety
Accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Remind employees why safety training is important, and provide continual reminders and retraining.
To help encourage your employees to make safety a priority at work, consider offering prizes or awards for those who follow the safety program and hit time milestones while remaining injury-free. Prizes like scratch-off lottery tickets, coffee gift cards, or 30 minutes of extra paid time off can help motivate your team.
By implementing proper safety techniques, you may be able to reduce the number of workers’ comp claims by your employees, help keep patients safe, and reduce your overall costs of owning a health care business.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.