PLYMOUTH — When you think of a dangerous work environment, a hospital probably isn’t the first place that pops into your mind.
But the Indiana Department of Labor released statistics earlier this month that point to health care as having the second highest worker injury and illness rates in the state. The DOL launched a statewide safety program to reduce some of these issues February 5.
Cindy Capron, Safety Manager for Miller’s Merry Manor in Plymouth, said that she has monthly safety committee meetings with staff to address potential danger areas. She said that much of the opportunity for injury comes from lifting and moving patients.
“We try to utilize lift machines for residents who have weight-bearing issues so staff does not have to lift them,” said Capron. “We also have employees complete check-off skills on safe transfers.”
Capron said that her safety committee is currently focusing on keeping patients and staff safe during a renovation happening at the facility.
Kurt Meyer, Chief Human Resources Officer at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, said that he’s followed the Department of Labor’s efforts to increase health care worker safety in other states.
“This is good stuff,” said Meyer of the recently introduced DOL initiative. “Most of our injuries are in patient handling, and the reason for that is that number one, our population is becoming obese. It’s a challenge (for staff) to lift the patients. In manufacturing, you do have a lot of heavy lifting but that is lifting an object…it’s completely different to lift a person.”
He added, “Our patients sometimes faint, fall, and talk back…it’s a more dynamic environment (than in manufacturing).”
To help, SJRMC employees use lift machines and slip sheets on the floor when transitioning patients.
“Our second area (of workplace injury) is in needle sticks,” said Meyer. “As you can imagine there is a huge amount of drugs being given to patients on an annual basis.”
He added that SJRMC facilities have been using retracting needles for several years.
“Once the shot’s given, the needle will retract…it’s much safer,” explained Meyer.
He reported that needle stick incidents among SJRMC employees have gone down significantly in the recent year.
“There are two things that are always important (in workplace safety),” said Meyer. “Human behavior, which is training, and mechanical issues. It’s a combination of unsafe behavior and unsafe conditions — those are the two reasons that people get injured.”
He continued, “I think (the DOL initiative) is a great thing to do, and we will continue our efforts. Our goal is to have wellness in all our workers.”
Vickie Juhasz, Director of Human Resources at the Catherine-Kasper Life Center in Donaldson, said that staff injuries at the Center are usually strains and sprains.
“Health care has such a high injury and illness rate because workers often have to lift, move, and transfer people who cannot assist in any way,” said Juhasz. “To reduce injuries we have taken a proactive approach by initiating a process to investigate all injuries. We determine the root cause of the injury and how to prevent it from reoccurring.”
She added that workers are regularly trained on lifting and positioning techniques.
“Health care workers instinctively will protect their resident or patient from injury at the expense of their own personal safety,” noted Juhasz.
The DOL will use the planned outreach initiative to provide safety resources to employers. The resources available will include flyers and posters, public service announcements, and webpage banners. To see these resources, visit www.in.gov/dol/