June is National Safety Month, an annual observance that makes efforts to reduce the leading causes of unintentional injury and harm at work, on the road, and in our communities. After all that we have faced the past year, observing this holiday in an attempt to keep those in our communities safe and healthy is more important than ever.
While hearing the words “National Safety Month” might make you think of a profession like construction or first responders, this is a topic that is critical to discuss across all professions. Employees should feel safe in the workplace and have regular training on safety policies and procedures to create an environment that is safe for them and their teams. This requires proactive safety measures to combat potential risks to provide optimal care for those in our communities.
It is no secret that this past year made workplace safety more critical than ever; now, as Senior Living Communities welcome new staff and adopt many recent changes, we must continue to keep the health and wellbeing of those in our care at the forefront of operations.
To get a better understanding of some of the pressing workplace safety issues that senior living communities are facing and the best ways to combat them, we spoke with Mike Harmon, owner of Harmon Physical Plan Consulting, a healthcare consulting that serves the Tampa bay area. HPPC owner with Mike has over 20 years of experience working with healthcare facilities:
Incite: How have workplace safety priorities shifted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The “expansion” of priorities is a better word than “shifted.” The facility must maintain all aspects of the facility operations no matter the current situation. For example, the expansion of the “infectious disease” policy and procedures has gotten more specific to Covid -19.
Incite: Should employees feel worried about getting sick if they [return to] work in senior living?
Safety procedures, including handwashing and the usage of personal protection equipment (PPE) are in place to protect the residents and employees. Many of the residents and staff in these communities chose to be vaccinated against the virus. Continued vaccinations and encouragement to be vaccinated are ongoing in centers. By reducing the risk, people should feel safer about being in the buildings.
Incite: Aside from concerns regarding Covid-19, there are the ever-present concerns regarding physical safety from falls, injuries, or chemical exposure.
What are some best practices for heading off the potential for injuries before they happen in senior living communities?
The facilities train their staff, during each year, to handle any situation. As new situations arise, the staff will focus on the improvement or modification of the procedures based on an actual event.
Incite: What about workplace violence? Is that an issue in senior living workplaces?
Workplace violence can happen at any organization. The Security Management Plan, a requirement under CMS and the NFPA 99 Chapter 13 – addresses the requirement of each facility to maintain a policy and procedure for workplace violence.
Incite: In senior living, a lot of workplace safety issues also have the potential to affect residents. What are some of the most efficient ways to ensure the safety of both staff and residents?
A safety committee made up of different levels of staff assemble monthly to report on the safety inspections of their departments and discuss improvements made to reduce any issues. It is important for the administration to implement the changes that these front-line team members bring to the table.
Incite: What type of safety training should communities provide to staff to improve safety and decrease the number of safety-related incidents?
Preparedness is defined as “a state of readiness,” and not just for storms but for any minor or major situation that can arise in the long-term care setting. Using an all-hazards approach, the training requirements for long-term care centers cover the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), the Policies and Procedures in the E-Tag Manual, the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) and the Security Management Plan, a requirement under CMS and the NFPA 99 Chapter 13 – SVA and the Security Vulnerability Assessment.
New staff members, current staff members, and volunteers are required to be serviced on all of the above annually.
Incite: What else would you like senior living communities to know about workplace safety?
Documentation and record-keeping are critical to follow trending and improvements. It is also important to have the information for the federal, state, and local inspectors to review during their facility visits.
For more information on workplace safety regulations, check out the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website (CMS) here and be sure to inquire within your community for details regarding your company’s specific safety policy.