Talking About Safety Reduces Injuries
Wheatridge Medical Office spreads safety
For at least one Colorado facility, workplace safety started with awareness. And building awareness was a team effort.
Wheatridge Medical Office, with about 140 employees, had three workplace injuries in the first half of 2013. The Wheatridge Safety team, representing departments across the facility, agreed that was unacceptable. But team members weren’t sure where to start, and the team lacked a management representative, making it hard to find time or resources to implement ideas.
That changed when Jeanne Kraft, RN, nurse manager for Internal Medicine, joined the safety team. The team adopted two ideas that had worked elsewhere. One was to host a safety fair, following a tried-and-true format: People visited several booths where they got information and answers to a quiz on basic safety practices. Everyone who completed the quiz then got a ticket for a barbecue lunch on the patio.
Awareness is much more than it used to be. We pay more attention now to finding hazards. Once you get it going, it's not too hard to do.
Walking the safety talk
“We had 90 percent participation at the fair,” says Kraft. “If folks didn’t attend the fair, they probably were not at work that day.” Physicians, pharmacists, medical assistants, nurses, patient care representatives, maintenance workers and managers participated.
The safety team also launched quarterly walk-arounds to evaluate hazards at the facility; team members pair off to look for and document such safety risks as blocked doorways or tripping hazards. The team provides immediate feedback on any hazards or incidents and uses what they find to address hazards, target training and conduct huddle conversations.
The facility recorded more than 420 safety conversations in nine months, a 7 percent increase over the same time period the previous year. The campaign helped Wheatridge substantially reduce the number of incidents.
“Awareness is much more than it used to be. We pay more attention now to finding hazards,” explains Michiyo Bottjer, a medical assistant and member of SEIU Local 7. “Once you get it going, it’s not too hard to do.”
“The team had fantastic ideas to raise awareness,” says Kraft. “They just needed the support to make it happen, like funding the safety fair.”
The idea is spreading. Having heard about Wheatridge’s success, the Westminster Medical Office now is planning to launch an annual safety fair of its own. For its efforts, the Wheatridge Medical Office Safety team earned Kaiser Permanente’s 2013 National Workplace Safety Award for success in a nonhospital facility.