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One Cultural Shift, Two Safety Improvements

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, March 11, 2013

In the season of annual reviews and employee engagement surveys, one question that should absolutely be on your list is "Does your employer make efforts to ensure your physical and psychological safety at work?"

Employee safety is a precise pulse point to check for the health of an organization's culture, no matter the industry. Whether or not employees feel safe at their workplace has a direct impact on the quality of their work. In healthcare specifically, employees work in high-stress, high-stakes environments where physical and psychological harm can occur from the patients in their care, as well as the coworkers who surround them.

Most hospital and healthcare executives do not make employee psychological and physical safety a top priority, according to a recent report from the National Patient Safety Foundation.

"Workforce injuries are often not visible to, or a top priority of, CEOs and other hospital leaders. At the same time, leaders are often unaware of or ill equipped to manage disruptive behavior," reads the report.

The cost of not correcting employee safety is increasing by 1% annually according to a 2012 Aon Global Risk Consulting Health Care Workers' Compensation Barometer report. In 2013, Aon projects that healthcare systems across the nation will experience an annual loss rate of $.79 per $100 of payroll, which will continue to increase 1% annually.

The NPSF's report on healthcare workforce safety cites a survey conducted by the NPSF's American Society of Professionals in Patient Safety, which found that only 16.5% of those surveyed reported that workforce safety was a focus in their organization's quality and safety initiatives. Meanwhile, when asked if there is a link between workforce safety and patient safety, 99% agreed.

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