A safety culture for staff
As Interim CEO of a health region and a long time employee in the health care field, I am no stranger to workplace injuries. I’m quite aware of them, ironically in health care as much as anywhere else: the very industry and programs where we work hard to improve the health of the population.
But the tragedy of these injuries really hit home in a personal way when I attended an annual Day of Mourning this spring and thought about the 37 families left to mourn a loved one last year because of a workplace fatality. That’s 37 people out of just over one million people who went to work in the morning and never came home again. It’s hard to believe that number of people died at work in this day and age.
And that’s not all. Saskatchewan has the second highest workplace injury rate in Canada.
About 39,689 injuries, in addition to the 37 deaths, were reported to the Worker’s Compensation Board last year. WorkSafe Saskatchewan says every year, all preventable injuries in Saskatchewan create a drain of $1 billion on the provincial economy, through the health care system, Workers’ Compensation Program, SGI, and other insurer disability costs.
It also says every one of the injuries were predictable and preventable!
In health care alone, there were 5,034 employees injured on the job in 2010, resulting in 84,638 days of missed work. That’s equivalent to 423 full time employees unable to work for an entire year.
Even that is not all there is to the story.
The Saskatchewan Association of Safe Workplaces in Health says outside the workplace, our injury hospitalization rate is twice the national average, and Saskatchewan people die of injuries 1.4 times more often than anywhere else in Canada.
We clearly need a culture change. The health system in Saskatchewan has decided this situation is not acceptable, either inside or outside the workplace and we need to make the necessary changes.
SCHR, along with all other health regions in the province, has started down that road. We have committed to a policy to eliminate all workplace injuries by 2017. We will develop and initiative a comprehensive injury prevention program and an active safety prevention program by March 2013.
Those programs will be very challenging to implement and maintain. Most of our staff members lift patients and residents on a regular basis, so much so that our most common injury is back-related injuries and shoulder strains. We have lift equipment to assist staff and we hold regular training sessions so staff members know how to do their job safely; yet injuries are still occurring. So we know this change will not be easy for us but it must be done.