Practicing Physical Safety in Healthcare

Although Healthcare workers are accustomed to overcoming challenges, staff safety is imperative to provide safe patient care. When workers can comfortably and confidently perform their roles, they’re better equipped to meet all their patients’ needs.

Although we associate healthcare with wellness, medical environments can pose serious risks to the physical safety of workers.

So today, let’s explore physical safety and look for ways staff safety in healthcare can be improved.

What is Physical Safety?

Physical safety is protection from physical hazards. A worker can be hurt by falling, sharp objects, and biohazards. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the degree to which healthcare workers are constantly at-risk, with many putting their lives on the line daily to treat their patients.

You might not consider physical safety a part of job satisfaction, but it plays a significant role. If you want to create a productive, happy environment for everyone, your staff must feel safe and comfortable. Moreover, they need to feel as though they have the proper knowledge and tools to prevent illness and injury.

In compliance with occupational safety regulations, all healthcare workers have the right to know about what hazards they face at work and how they can protect themselves from harm.

How Does Physical Safety Factor into Healthcare?

In compliance with occupational safety regulations, all healthcare workers have the right to know about what hazards they face at work and how they can protect themselves from harm.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, says it best: “No country, hospital or clinic can keep its patients safe unless it keeps its health workers safe.”

Improving physical safety in healthcare means prioritizing the well-being of your staff and ensuring they are always able to proactively provide the best patient care. They should never have to trade off their own health to look after someone else’s.

Importance of Physical Safety in Healthcare

In 2000, the Institute of Medicine released To Err is to Human. This groundbreaking publication revealed that errors lead to over 98,000 patient deaths annually.

In the twenty years since the publication, significant interventions and improvements have been implemented. Now, patient safety is more of a priority than ever, and numerous tools, procedures, and protocols exist to ensure that the risk of harm is as low as possible.

While numerous studies explore healthcare worker burnout and mental health, physical safety has had a much quieter evolution over the years.

Doctors and nurses follow procedures that minimize patient risks, but until recently, less attention has been devoted to protecting medical professionals directly. The pandemic forced us to understand that by prioritizing physical safety for our healthcare heroes, we stand to create a stronger, healthier community and a better system for everyone.

At the individual level, a safer workplace means less risk of error and greater engagement. At an organizational level, physical safety reduces workplace injuries, employee turnover, and general staffing shortages.

Ways to Improve Physical Safety in Healthcare

As we work to improve staff safety practices and procedures, there are various methods we can employ:

  • Always provide PPE to prevent exposure to biohazards
  • Create a robust safety policy that aligns and expands upon the regulations laid out by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  • Implement a safety incident reporting system that makes it easier to identify and correct risks
  • Ensure your facility always follows proper waste management protocol and routinely disinfects high-contact surfaces
  • Make sure that all medical equipment, including patient beds and treatment tables, is well-maintained
  • Provide hand-outs and easy-to-find information about what to do if someone is exposed to a pathogen through an injection, exchange of bodily fluids, etc.
  • Hold staff safety training events that cover how to protect themselves against the biohazards and physical risks associated with their jobs
  • Require management and faculty to participate in ongoing safety training
  • Always follow standard precautions for disease prevention and control
  • Make sure all workers are familiar with emergency response and are equipped to help themselves and their colleagues

Bringing Humanity Back to Healthcare

Thinking about physical safety and implementing preventive strategies is much more effective when you think of the people behind the titles. Doctors and nurses are all individuals whose safety is as important as that of the patient.

Improving physical safety in healthcare can boost job satisfaction, lower the risk of medical error, and create a more efficient, productive environment for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about improving physical safety in healthcare and the importance of doing so, please reach out to me today. Together, we can make healthcare a physically safer place for staff and patients alike.