Safety Hazards

Patient safety has increasingly become a matter of interest to health care organizations and accrediting organizations.  Patient safety, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the prevention of errors and adverse effects to patients that are associated with health care.  To manage patient safety risks within the environment of care, health care facilities must effectively plan and execute effective programs related to safety, security, hazardous materials and waste, fire safety, medical equipment, and facility/utility management.

ISSUE - Terms and Concepts

RISK – Defining Failure Modes

Patient Safety: Facility related issues can adversely affect patient safety.  Properly managing the environment of care—the space, the equipment, and the people—mitigates risks and reduces the potential impact of these risks to patients, staff, and visitors.

Worker Safety: Hospitals have many unique hazards that can potentially affect the health of employees. These hazards include biological and chemical hazards, ergonomic hazards, hazardous drugs, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, shift work, stress, and violence. They can be eliminated or reduced by a variety of exposure control methods, including design elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. 

IMPACT – Identifying Patient Outcomes

One of the earliest proponents of the importance of the physical environment was Florence Nightingale.  Her efforts on behalf of the British soldiers during the Crimean War focused on design engineering to improve lighting (especially with sunlight), ventilation, heating and cooling, and clean water. The safety aspects of clean air and water were not inconsequential.  The effects of her improvements on patient outcomes were reflected in the mortality figures for 1855, which fell from 42.7 deaths per 1,000 to 2 per 1,000 within 3 months of Nightingale's changes. (Dossey BM. Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Springhouse, Pa: Springhouse Corp; 2000.)  Although risks are inherent within the environment of care, properly managing these risks saves patient lives and reduces stress for health care workers.

MITIGATION – Assessment Tools and Resources

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Compliance Home

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The hospital manages risks associated with its utility systems.
(August/September 2015)

The hospital maintains the integrity of the means of egress.
(October/November 2015)

The hospital establishes and maintains a safe, functional environment.
(December/January 2016)

The hospital maintains fire safety equipment and fire safety building features.
(February/March 2016)

Building and fire protection features are designed and maintained to minimize the effects of fire, smoke, and heat.
(April/May 2016)

The hospital provides and maintains building features to protect individuals from the hazards of fire and smoke.
(June/July 2016)

The hospital provides and maintains equipment for extinguishing fires.
(August/September 2016)

The hospital manages risks related to hazardous materials and waste.
(October/November 2016)

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