Home » Advocacy » Using Tech to Keep Health Care Professionals Safe

Glenn Cullen

Vice President — Corporate Programs & Product Development
Public Services Health & Safety Association

There is no denying that it is an exciting time to be in health care. Continuous advancements in medical research and technology make work environments dynamic. Frontline workers benefit from challenging, rewarding, and meaningful work, and are able to make a real impact in the lives of their communities.

However, due to the nature of frontline work, health care workers also experience challenges on the job. In tending to patients, they are often exposed to a number of occupational risks and hazards, including workplace violence, chronic mental stress, and musculoskeletal disorders, which can result in injuries, illnesses, time off work, and, in more severe cases, death.

Workplace hazards

According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, 19% of total national injury claims in 2015 were from the health care industry — more than any other industry in Canada. Recognizing, assessing, and controlling these occupational risks and hazards on an ongoing basis is of particular concern for hospitals, care facilities, and other health care organizations.

These issues also present an interesting challenge for organizations like the Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA), a government-funded not-for-profit organization that works with Ontario’s public sector employees and employers to provide occupational health and safety training, resources, and consulting to reduce workplace risks and prevent injuries and illnesses.

Health care and social services represent 13% of Canada’s total labour market. PSHSA is often confronted with the task of reaching such a large audience with effective support and information. In response to this challenge, PSHSA is collaborating with partners in the technology field and taking an innovative, scalable approach to identify better ways to address pervasive health and safety issues. By staying abreast of market needs and trends, PSHSA has been able to establish online platforms and interactive tools for health care workers and workplaces that are improving health and safety outcomes.

Innovating with technology

This past spring, PSHSA partnered with Focus21, a local software innovation company, to take a fresh approach to tackling the issue of workplace violence in health care, launching Workplace Violence. The online platform employs an interactive framework to provide health care workplaces with a consistent, scalable, and consensus-based approach to workplace violence prevention.

“We love partnering with organizations to co-create innovative software solutions that have positive impacts on the day-to-day lives of people” explains Jeff Aramini, President of Focus21. “We rarely see this co-creation approach in public sector projects. The energy and openness to new ideas that PSHSA brought to the project and the trust that they showed in our ability to deliver were paramount to the project’s success.”

Another example of this is First Responders First, an online resource toolkit which enables first responder organizations to build and maintain a comprehensive PTSD prevention program. The platform also includes tools to help identify when a first responder might have a problem, where to seek help, and what the best practices are for employers. This initiative is currently being expanded to nurses and other frontline health care workers who also experience traumatic events and contend with work-related mental stress.

New approaches to safety

PSHSA is finding significant success with using technology as a method to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, while ensuring occupational health and safety remains a top priority for health care organizations.

To date, performance data shows that tech solutions are increasing awareness of workplace issues and enhancing access to information, allowing workers to access much-needed support and enabling employers to enhance their self-reliance when it comes to health and safety management.

The health care system’s greatest asset is the individuals who dedicate their careers to the care of others. Ongoing creativity, initiative, and collaboration are required to keep them safe at work and doing what they do best. By adopting innovative and forward-thinking approaches, we can continue to work towards eliminating workplace hazards and creating safer workspaces, while improving patient safety and care.

Glenn Cullen is the Vice President of Corporate Programs and Product Development at the Public Services Health & Safety Association. His career encompasses both for-profit and not-for-profit experience in the public and private sectors, including media, financial services, information technology, consulting, education, and government.

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