If you work in health care, you can thank JCAHO for looking out for your safety. The goal of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations identifies best practices and defines standards for excellence in patient care. But safe patient care practices can also safeguard health care workers. There are parallels between the safety standards defined by JCAHO and regulations for workplace safety that are overseen by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To capitalize on these parallels and avoid contradicting one another, OSHA and JCAHO work together to keep health care workers safe from workplace hazards specific to the health care industry.
Some of the requirements in JCAHO standards focus on protecting patients and health care workers from biological hazards. One sign of JCAHO standards at work are the plastic bins that are specifically labeled and used for safe needle disposal. JCAHO also provides training on the proper use of personal protective equipment -- such as face shields, goggles and masks -- as well as effective hand hygiene. You can expect to see a lot of sinks and chemically based dry hand wash stations in patient staging and treatment areas.
Protection against airborne hazards addressed by JCAHO standards go beyond the use of PPEs to a building’s utility systems. Requirements for engineering controls address building designs and the installation and maintenance of utility or ventilation systems. Hospitals are expected to regularly inspect and test utility systems to keep them in safe working order. Any renovation, demolition or new construction work must also be carefully controlled to avoid contaminating the air quality for everyone in the organization.
Ergonomic issues covered by JCAHO standards address things like how to safely move patients from a bed to a gurney or wheelchair. PPEs associated with ergonomics can include sliding boards, walking belts and mechanical lift systems. Processes can include getting assistance from colleagues in certain situations. Hospitals must define acceptable processes or protocols that cover the needs of workers and patients alike. Health care workers who don’t follow the prescribed processes for moving patients could become injured themselves and cause harm to their patients.
The attitudes and actions of a workforce are directly linked to the attitudes, actions and expectations of its leadership team, so it’s not surprising that JCAHO standards also define specific requirements for the leaders of health care organizations. Policies and processes must be established and documented. Leaders must also provide for continual training, particularly to promote things like injury prevention and the effective use of PPE assistive devices for lifting and transferring patients.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.