National Safety Month: Safety In The Workplace

June is National Safety Month

The National Safety Council (NSC) has designated June to raise awareness about safety at home, on the roads and in the workplace.  Each week is dedicated to a different topic : “Employee Wellness”;  “Ergonomics”; “Slips, Trips and Falls”;  “Driving Safety”.  These issues are familiar ones to healthcare workers as they relate to clients, not necessarily to themselves.  But safety is a critical component of any work environment, and PTs, OTs and SLPs are not immune to injury and security matters.  In fact, the Occupational Safety and Healthcare Administration (OSHA) found that the healthcare sector has the  highest incidenceof work-related injuries and illnesses, compared to other industries.

According to OSHA, the most common preventable/mitigatable healthcare safety concerns are:

  • Bloodborne Pathogens/Body Fluids:  Therapists, particularly in clinical settings, should use double-gloving, masks, eye protection and face shields, especially with patients who are known to have open wounds or autoimmune diseases.  Consistent disinfection of visible or potentially contaminated surfaces and treatment devices following sessions will reduce the risk.
  • Ergonomics:  Work-related musculoskeletal injuries are rising, particularly for physical therapists, from repetitive manipulations and lifting of patients during therapy.  Lift with smooth and steady movements, bending the knees, using only arm and leg muscles, and keeping the spine straight.  Employ additional staff and/or mechanical aids with patients unable to support their own weight.  Avoid driving, standing or sitting for long periods of time, and consider using an ergonomic standing chair during treatments.
  • Slips/Falls/Trips:  Therapies that involve ice bags/moist heat packs, whirlpools and workout equipment are potentially hazardous to clients and clinicians.  Floors must be clean and dry at all times and pathways clear of obstructions. Non-slip floor mats are essential in areas that may be wet or slippery, such as whirlpools.  A table and supply of towels must be placed where ice/heat packs are prepared and stored.  Therapists should wear shoes with non-skid soles to reduce falls.
  • Dangerous Chemicals:  Equipment cleaning chemicals, ultrasound gel, aerosols, creams and prescription meds all present potential risks to the therapist. Whirlpool and X-ray/ultrasound rooms must be well ventilated, especially during cleanings. Less toxic cleaning products should be utilized, and brush on products are preferred over sprays.  Gloves should be used to apply medications and creams where indicated.
  • Equipment Hazards:  Therapy often involves both electrical and water-based equipment, and when improperly used or inadequately maintained can result in overexposure and electrocution. Regularly check equipment for malfunctions and frayed/damaged cords.  Properly ground electrical devices especially near water sources.  Use floor plugs for workout equipment cords to avoid potential pathway obstructions.  Hold stimulators and ultrasounds by their handles, not their heads, to avoid hand weakness and shocks.
  • Infectious Diseases:  Hand hygiene is the most effective means of preventing infection and should be done before and after patient contact, even when using gloves. Gloves and masks when indicated can reduce the risk of MRSA and other respiratory infections.  Legionnaire’s Disease can be spread by improperly maintained air conditioning cooling towers and potable water systems, especially in shower/whirlpool areas.  Regular maintenance check, proper temperature settings and  twice yearly disinfection using biocides can reduce this risk.

Other practical workplace safety tips for therapists:

  • carry a cell phone and regularly check in with someone
  • lock valuables and offices
  • know the building security personnel and systems
  • monitor client behavior

If you are a therapist looking for a safe, challenging and exciting career opportunity call Centra at 800 535 0076 and let us assist you in finding the right work environment for you.

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