Occupational Health and Safety for Hospitals

For moral, economic and legal reasons, a hospital must be concerned with maintaining the health and preventing injuries among its employees. Employees of hospitals may be exposed to a wide variety of potentially hazardous environments. As medical technology advances new hazards will continually be added to the hospital environment. Hospital employees have comparable work injury rates with many manufacturing industries. The cost of workmen’s compensation insurance and lost work time are of concern to hospital administrators.

A comparison of the 1972 National Institute of Occupational Safety and Healths Hospital Occupational Health Services Study and a similar study of nineteen selected Oklahoma hospitals indicated there was little change in the provision of health and safety services hospitals offer their employees. These results show that hospitals generally rely on a hospital safety committee to provide employee safety service. Other results indicate the services in health and safety which are provided to employees are fragmented with no one individual specifically responsible for a comprehensive program.

A Hospital Department Occupational Health and Safety Control Survey of 104 departments in medium size hospitals and 112 departments in large size hospitals indicated that both approach the problem of employee health and safety protection in the same way. Also neither size hospital departments keep records concerning injury, lost work days or other types of similar rate concerning their employees.

The occupational health and safety program is intended to promote, maintain, and protect the health of employees while preventing injury to them. In order to accomplish this an occupational health and safety program must be comprehensive including functions as: occupational health; environmental health and epidemiology; occupational safety and hygiene; education, coordination and record keeping; and a hospital safety committee. These functions must provide: preplacement medical evaluation, periodic health examinations, care of work related illness and injury, immunizations when needed, health counseling, environmental control and surveillance including accident investigation, and coordinated planning with other internal and external departments or authorities.

Existing fragmented hospital occupational health and safety programs should be consolidated into the management system. The program should be comprehensive in nature directed by one individual with authority and support personnel needed to carry out the program functions.

The exact manpower needs for this program will vary depending upon the magnitude of the program and the size of the hospital. When possible, existing positions should be transferred to the new program. It is important that the program director report to the top hospital administrator.

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