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What’s specific for health & safety implementation in hospitals

With the population living longer than ever before, and rapidly improving advancements in medical technology, hospitals are busier than they have ever been. With the unique mix of employees, patients, and the public, there is also a duty to provide a safe and healthy environment for all interested parties. Given all these elements, having an OH&SMS (Operational Health and Safety Management System) certified according to OHSAS 18001 is an even more common requirement for many hospitals than ever before. But, with many variables and unique sets of circumstances, this can be very challenging. So, what do we have to consider when establishing an OH&SMS in a hospital?

OHSAS in a hospital – The basics

The fundamentals of establishing an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS in a hospital are the same as in any other organization. In the previous article: A case study for applying OHSAS 18001 in an office environment, we examined how an OH&SMS could be set up in an office, and in terms of the OHSAS standard and its principles, a hospital requires the same basics. All terms of the OHSAS 18001 standard will need to be examined and met, but the following topics may take on special significance in a hospital environment:

  • Participation and consultation: Feedback from employees familiar with internal processes can play a huge part in identifying risks and hazards previously unconsidered. Ensuring these elements are determined correctly can also help to build a culture of health and safety and emphasize the importance of safety in the hospital. You can learn more in the article How to meet participation and consultation requirements in ISO 45001.
  • Competence, training, and awareness: It almost goes without saying that these elements can vastly improve the OH&SMS results and ensure that objectives can be met, if delivered effectively. The article How to perform training and awareness in OHSAS 18001 can tell you more about this topic.
  • Corrective action: This is the mechanism that can correct root cause when an accident or incident occurs. Despite the fact that prevention is better than cure, effective corrective action needs to exist to ensure that reoccurrence is prevented. The article Seven steps for corrective and preventive action in your OH&SMS can assist you with this topic.

So, while all these elements and their respective clauses in OHSAS 18001 are vital to establishing an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS, there is one fundamental part of the OHSAS 18001 standard that needs special attention when it comes to hospitals – risks, and how they are assessed and dealt with.

OHSAS 18001 in a hospital – Dealing with risk

The assessment and mitigation of risk is the fundamental basis of OHSAS 18001, and dealing with this key element in a hospital environment will require special considerations. With patients, visitors, and employees all requiring consideration as interested parties, what examples can we consider in terms of potential hazards? Let us examine this in detail:

  • Germ-free areas: It is critical that some areas managing infectious diseases are kept off limits to the public. It is also critical that hospital staff are trained and consulted in order to stringently follow internal rules and processes to ensure that infectious diseases are not carried outside that area into the hospital and wider community. In terms of risk assessment, there are several recent examples in the UK and US where this has happened with disastrous consequences.
  • Slips and trips: Such accidents are as relevant in hospitals as in any other workplace, especially with the likelihood that elderly people will visit friends and relatives in the hospital.
  • Danger of infection: Again, as visitors leave certain areas it is vital that they disinfect their hands to prevent germ transmission. This needs to be done after consultation with experts, and followed through with excellent communication and participation – using good signage and information for visitors and encouraging staff to promote this practice and ensure it becomes standard.
  • Hazards through use of equipment: As mentioned above, technology has ensured that machinery is more complex than ever before, and while that is hugely advantageous in general, it can lead to danger if not used correctly. Training, consultation and participation are all elements that can be used effectively to make certain that employee competence is sufficient to ensure safe working is maintained.

So, as you can see from these examples, hazards and dangers in a hospital can range from the ordinary to the unique, but all require the use of an effective risk management and mitigation process. So, is there any other advice that can help us with an OH&SMS implementation in a hospital?

Establishing an OH&SMS: Getting it right

When you work on establishing your OH&SMS in a hospital, you must comply with the standard and assess risks diligently at the same time. Ensuring you consult the correct people and authorities, in terms of contagious disease protection and good practice to stop germs spreading, is critical – these may not be facts known to the people administrating your OH&SMS. Secondly, ensure your plans to guarantee competence and awareness can harness this knowledge, with maximum risk removal being the end result. This mixture of expertise and fundamental OHSAS 18001 principles can ensure that your hospital can establish and maintain an OHSAS 18001-certified OH&SMS, and all the stakeholders will benefit.

Why not use our free  OHSAS 18001 Gap Analysis Tool to compare your health & safety practices with standard requirements?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.