Friday, January 5, 2018

On Becoming a Learning Organization: 8 Employee Injuries

Today, I met with Simon Freyou, our new Director of Occupational Health, and discussed the GBMC HealthCare System’s progress in making our environment safer. Back in 2011, as we started becoming aware of the magnitude of this problem, we had as many as 40 injuries per month, many of which were lifting injuries, injuries due to slips on wet floors and sprains.

Last month we had “only” eight injuries. I use the quotes because if you are one of our eight colleagues who was injured, you deserve to be annoyed if the CEO says “only eight injuries.” I was telling Simon that the good news is that there were no sprains, strains, slips, and falls or chemical exposures this year.

How did this improvement occur? Was it by wishing and hoping? Or by paying better attention? I am sure that paying attention to wet floors or to how we lift patients did help; but most of the improvement came from studying the causes of the injuries, learning from them and making real changes. We now have “spill stations” throughout corridors where we often have spills or wet feet. We no longer place full trash bags on the floor, instead, we place them directly into carts because many contain liquid and may leak. We have placed lifting devices in most rooms or near where the care is delivered to aid in lifting patients.

With “only” eight injuries we still have work to do. All eight were in the category of potential blood-borne pathogen exposure- needle stick or other sharps injuries and splashes of body fluids. This category is probably the worst for our people. It is very unlikely that someone will get a serious pathogenic exposure from a sharps injury or a splash, but can you imagine going home after your work as a physician, nurse or other clinician and telling your spouse that you just converted to Hepatitis C positive because you stuck yourself with a needle? We owe it to our people to learn from every injury to make changes to eliminate injuries from our workplace. While we will never achieve perfection, we must always be working to reduce harm to our patients and our workforce. I am proud to report that we are becoming a learning organization and we are making progress. Let’s keep learning and testing changes on the basis of what we learn.

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