Quality & Patient Safety

Tip of the week: Establish parameters for risk assessments

Hospital Safety Insider, July 21, 2011

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The risk assessment is a simple but effective tool to evaluate any number of risks stemming from worker protection, facility design requirements, or patient safety. Although each risk assessment is unique, says Earl Williams, HSP-M, safety specialist at Advocate Health Care in Normal, IL, there are a number of general parameters to consider during each one, including the following:

  • Applicable regulations. For any particular risk, what regulations provide guidance regarding the protective measures you should have in place? If it’s a fire issue, look to the Life Safety Code®. If it’s a risk involving employee or physical safety, look to OSHA or the Environmental Protection Agency. If you are an accredited organization, consider all relevant Joint Commission standards. Also consider what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations require.
  • Exposure. This can be considered in a variety of ways. Risk for employee exposure to an infectious disease can involve precautions using personal protective equipment or safe work practices. What is the employee being exposed to and how can it be avoided? 
  • Population/age group. A facility that chiefly serves children may have different risks than a facility that serves mostly senior citizens. For example, a pediatrician’s office may have to consider covering electrical outlets, whereas a nursing home may not.
  • History. Does your facility have a history of problems with a particular issue? If your community has a high risk of TB outbreaks, that could affect the patient population.
  • Geography. Look at the risks facilities in your area of the country are likely to face. Chinnes says because she is in the southeast region of the United States, she always considers the effect of hurricanes or tropical storms. “I look at things like what would happen if we don’t have water or electricity,” she says. Consider what would happen to staffing at your facility if people couldn’t get to your hospital.

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