This is the second in a two-part series focused on defining the problem of workplace safety for the future: Part I | Part II

Workplace injuries and illness are expensive — both in terms of the organization's bottom line and the morale of employees. As the healthcare delivery system continues to evolve, new workflows and ways of accomplishing the work to be done will change, necessitating updates to policy, plans and training.

Below are strategies and resources that can help leaders manage workplace risks and keep employees safe.

  • Assess and reassess hazards in the workplace, including the general work environment and role specific hazards.

  • Use evaluation checklists or other tools to assess the effectiveness of your organization's Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and make updates as new risks are identified.

  • Annually assess the safety culture of your organization to identify issues and opportunities for improvement and increase awareness among workers. A six-question evidence-based survey developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is an ideal starting point. In addition, results from existing Patient Safety Culture Survey reports can also reveal workplace safety issues.

  • Explore specific examples of activities and interventions to improve safety as outlined in Chapter 3 of the Improving Patient and Worker Safety monograph by the Joint Commission. Topics include personal protective equipment, violence and fatigue/distress, etc .

  • The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) has prepared a Workplace Violence Risk Assessment toolkit to assist healthcare facilities in being proactive in their prevention and response to an event. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) video "Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event" is an excellent educational resource to help workers create their own personal plan.
  • Employers are responsible for supervising employees who work remotely, and this includes ensuring their safety. Identify safety measures needed when these employees work from home, mobile or in a patient home. Train employees to recognize and respond to unsafe conditions in their work environment(s).

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering outreach and educational calls and webinars to provide guidance for healthcare professionals on the Zika virus.

  • TeamSTEPPS is an evidence-based system for improving communication and teamwork skills among healthcare professionals. The situational monitoring process and I'm SAFE Checklist are two of the techniques that can help employees recognize risks to their safety — including whether they or their co-workers are ready to perform.

  • Communication — including nonverbal — failure is typically at the center of most injuries, grievances, complaints and lawsuits. Encourage workers to speak up if they see an unsafe condition or if they have questions. Everyone is responsible for safety and for reporting unsafe conditions to their supervisor and/or safety officer, and this should be made clear during orientation and annual training.

  • Actively investigate safety concerns identified or reported by workers, and take action to correct deficiencies or make improvements. If the investigation doesn't support change or corrective actions, provide feedback and education to those expressing safety concerns.

  • Document, document, document identified safety issues, complaints, investigation findings, communications and corrective actions taken to create a record of safety activities. The documentation may be needed during OSHA inspections or for liability claims.

Employees and other healthcare workers will focus their attention to those areas that are perceived to be important to their supervisors and leadership. Clearly setting the expectation that safety is important, and continually reinforcing this expectation with both actions and words, is the single most important strategy a leader can perform.

When was the last time you discussed safety in the workplace with your team?