[Part 4 of Labels and Safety]
Medical workers suffer the highest rate of nonfatal injuries in the US. Believe it or not, statistics show that healthcare jobs are more hazardous than those in manufacturing or construction.On the other hand, medical errors also frequently lead to avoidable patient injuries.
Do you remember Dennis Quaid from Dragonheart and The Parent Trap? In 2007, his twins almost died from a medication error.
The use of safety signs and labels has decreased the likelihood of injury across all occupations in the entire country. Health facilities’ illness prevention programs can derive significant benefits from the simple act of labeling.
What hazards are commonly encountered in American healthcare facilities?
Medical institutions are fraught with biological perils consisting of microorganisms and toxins. Healthcare workers may get exposed to these agents from patient contact and unknowingly spread them throughout the hospital.
Antibiotic and disinfectant use typically leaves behind a small fraction of resistant microorganisms that can multiply over time. These germs can survive in any area of the facility and make both medical workers and patients sick.
Improper needle disposal may cause needlestick injuries and transmit blood-borne infections to unsuspecting people. Blood-borne agents include HIV, hepatitis B, cytomegalovirus, etc., which can lead to fatal conditions with no known cure.
Nurses, physical therapists, nurse aides and occupational therapists assist patients every day. They risk getting injured from repeated heavy lifting, standing for long periods, typing for hours, CPR compressions and other activities requiring repetitive motion or awkward postures.
Bedridden patients require periodic body repositioning. It keeps them from having pressure ulcers, or wounds developing from prolonged resting on one side of the body.
These may stem from the use of hazardous equipment or accidents in dangerous areas.
Electrocution may cause a wide range of conditions. Small electric shocks may be inconsequential, but large doses, i. e. 1,000 volts or more, can stop the heart from beating.
Constant exposure to hospital equipment’s high-frequency noise may lead to deafness over time.
Large amounts of radiation, particularly from x-rays and radioactive medical products, can cause immediate organ damage, cancer or both.
Falls may occur from the daily course of work or slipping on newly cleaned floors. Hospital employees are also most commonly the victims of workplace violence.
For healthcare workers, these may come from using harmful cleaning agents without PPE. For patients, chemical hazards may be in the form of receiving the wrong medication.
Healthcare workers are subjected to various conditions that can affect mental health. Understaffing can lead to burnout. Lack of improvement in some patients may cause frustration. The risk of contracting illnesses like Coronavirus disease can trigger anxiety attacks.
What are the benefits of using safety signs and labels in medical facilities?
The healthcare industry depends heavily on labeling systems. When used for crafting health and safety signs, medical facilities gain a lot of advantages. The most important ones are:
For the facility:
- Having fewer employee illnesses and injuries
- Lower payments for compensation claims and health insurance premiums
- More efficient work practices
- Boosted institutional reputation
- Fewer avoidable errors
- Greater satisfaction from the services received
- Lower hospitalization expenditures
Where are safety signs and labels most commonly used in medical facilities?
All hospital areas may be considered dangerous due to biological and other types of hazards. Safety signs and labels thus have a wide application in these facilities.
Also, since occupational violence may stem from fraudulent visits, hospital ID cards are now equipped with enhanced security features. They add to safety labels’ utility in the healthcare industry. Therefore, aside from safety signs found in typical workplaces, the following are considered healthcare labels:
Lab specimen labels
Over half of lab errors are due to labeling errors. Barcoding, QR coding and proper patient identification minimize such mistakes.
Patient wristbands and medical chart sticky labels
These medical stickers are central to patient care. They facilitate correct patient identification and health data recording.
In the US, patient wristband inaccuracies cause 1 in every 20 medication errors. About 97% of incorrect chart orders in the emergency department are due to disorganized labeling.
Illegible handwriting on these tags causes confusion and errors. Automation, barcoding and QR coding enhance data accuracy and organization.
Trespassing occurs in as many as 5 out of 10 American hospitals. It threatens the patients and staff’s safety.
As many as 3 out of 4 workplace assault victims are healthcare and social service workers. Most of these cases occur in the emergency department, where hospital security is the most relaxed.
To protect hospital personnel from workplace violence, OSHA recommends the implementation of effective hospital visitor management systems. Such systems enable the security staff to track down all non-employees coming to the facility.
Aside from using electronic surveillance devices, the best hospital visitor management systems rely on personalized visitors’ passes. Here is one example from Broward Health Medical Center in Georgia:
Professional-looking visitors’ passes are easily made from direct thermal labels.
Medical impostors are rare in the US, but they cause a lot of damage when they strike. They may treat patients illegally, steal financial information, hurt legitimate staff members, etc.
To protect against fraud, hospital employees’ badges now have additional security features, such as barcodes and QR codes. The use of RFID tags is a recent innovation.
In the US, incorrectly dispensed drugs cause as many as 7,000 deaths yearly. Unreadable pharmacy labels are largely blamed for this catastrophe.
It can be avoided by automating the labeling process, which you can do using thermal printers, like this Zebra label printer.
Hazardous waste labels
Hazardous waste labels are crucial in hospital sanitation as they allow toxic trash to be segregated efficiently.
You can make hazardous waste labels using direct thermal printing technology. It also helps to use color-coding on your trash bags.
Quality management accreditation enhances any establishment’s image. OSHA, ANSI and ISO are some of the most important organizations that set the service standards for hospitals.
This ISO label notifies patients that they are being treated at a high-standard facility.
Did hospital practices change much due to the Coronavirus pandemic?
Hospital protocols have significantly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of safety signs for social distancing, PPE wearing and other protective measures is recommended, as in other establishment types. However, healthcare workers have a much higher viral exposure risk. So the CDC advises to take additional precautions in the following aspects:
- PPE disposal
- Patient isolation
- Specimen handling and labeling
- First responder protocols (emergencies and ambulances)
- Waste management
- Many others
The list is long but can be found on the CDC website.
Healthcare facilities are filled with various hazards that can be minimized with the use of health and safety signs. Ensuring safety inside these premises positively impacts the institution, its employees and its patients. Safety signs and labels are found on every nook and cranny of a medical facility, and the COVID-19 pandemic just underscores their value to the industry.
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