The healthcare sector in Ireland is a significant employment sector.
- There were 227,000 persons employed in health and social work in 2009 (CSO indicative data).
- Nurses are the main occupational group, representing one-quarter of all employees in the sector.
- The public health service accounts for approximately two-thirds of all those employed in the sector.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has identified the main risk factors and related health problems in the healthcare sector, they include the following:
- Musculoskeletal loads – poor working postures, heavy loads.
- Biological agents – micro-organisms, viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B, contaminated blood.
- Chemical substances – including disinfectants, anaesthetic gases and antibiotics. They may be harmful to the skin, or the respiratory system; they may be carcinogenic.
- Radiological hazards.
- Changing shifts, work rhythms and night work.
- Violence from members of the public.
- Other factors contributing to stress – traumatic situations and factors, the organisation of work and relations with colleagues.
- Accidents at work – falls, cuts, needle punctures, electric shocks etc.
Risk assessment and effective health and safety management are the key to preventing and reducing healthcare workers exposure to work hazards.
- Occupational health and safety risks in the healthcare sector, European Commission.
Workplace Health and Safety Standards
The Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG) is the occupational health and safety sub group of the NHS Staff Council. The purpose of the group is to raise standards of occupational health and safety in healthcare organisations, and promote best practice across both the NHS and the Independent sector.
The Workplace Health and Safety Standards
The Workplace Health and Safety Standards is a free publication produced by HSWPG aimed at helping NHS and independent sector organisations. They provide practical pointers and signposts for meeting appropriate standards in key areas of employee occupational health and safety. Following the Workplace Health and Safety Standards will help organisations meet their legal obligations and protect staff and patients.
See more at: HSE.gov.uk
Managing Safety and Health in Healthcare
In recent years there have been increased demands on all healthcare organisations to demonstrate excellence in governance. These demands have come from a range of sources including service users, taxpayers and public representatives and the healthcare sector is endeavouring to respond to these increased demands.
The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires employers to manage safety and health at work.
Evidence shows that the more committed leaders and senior management are to safety, health and welfare enhancement, the greater is the level of commitment of the workforce. This in turn promotes the prevention of workplace accidents and illnesses.
It is against this backdrop that the Health and Safety Authority Guidance Document for the Healthcare Sector and the Audit Tool for the Healthcare Sector have been produced. This provides a means of integrating safety health and welfare into existing management systems. It will facilitate compliance with legislation and demonstrate excellence in governance. See:
- Guidance Document on Developing a Safety and Health Management System
- Safety and Health Audit Tool for the Healthcare Sector
For small healthcare providers e.g. residential care facilities, medical centres, GP and dental practices see Health and Safety Management in Healthcare Information Sheet – a guide for small employers in Healthcare.
– See more at: HSA.ie
Healthcare Illness and Injury Statistics
The Health and Social Work Sector reports over 1000 injuries each year to the Health and Safety Authority. This accounts for nearly 20% of all workplace injuries reported to the HSA each year.
Reported incidents indicate three main accident triggers in the healthcare sector:
- manual handling (patient handling and handling of inanimate loads)
- slips, trips and falls (on the level)
- work related shock, fright and violence.
Available statistics also indicate that Illness rates in this sector are also one of the highest.
Further information on annual illness and injury statistics in the healthcare sector can be found on the HSA website.
eLearning for Healthcare
We have already identified the benefits of eLearning through online Risk Assessments, VDU/DSE training (and other courses such as Slips, Trips & Falls) but one of the most exciting courses to be launched in the world of eLearning is COSSH. (To find out more about COSSH – check out our Eazy Guide here!)
As outlined by the HSE –
“Employees need to understand the outcome of your risk assessment and what this means for them. Tell them:
- what the hazards and risks are;
- about any workplace exposure limit;
- the results of any monitoring of exposure;
- the general results of health surveillance;
- what to do if there is an accident (eg spillage) or emergency.
Employees should have access to safety data sheets.”
Health and safety is paramount to all work environments, and can become a second priority when caring for others.
Ensure that safe work practices are in place in your workplace, that there are procedures to handle any accidents, and all members of staff (employees AND contractors) are fully trained.
If you are interested in taking a trial of any of our online courses, such as COSSH, click here.
Hat tip to HSA.ie & HSE.co.uk
Link of the week: Health & Safety Made Simple from the HSE