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A hundred hospitals have joined a new system to track needlesticks and other healthcare injuries, the first such national surveillance since 2007.
The Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN) enables hospitals to compare their needlestick rates with other, similar hospitals, using an online reporting system that is updated monthly. The system, launched a year ago by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also tracks slips, trips and falls, patient handing injuries, and workplace violence.
Slips, trips and falls surpass the other injuries in both number and rate, making them the most common hazard for hospital employees. The OHSN reporting enables hospitals to see where the injuries are occurring and to compare their data with other hospitals nationally, regionally, and of a similar size.
For years, hospitals have faced mandates to report hospital-acquired infections and other patient safety measures. OHSN is voluntary but it represents the most significant tracking of employee health and safety to date.
It is important to have that counterbalance, emphasizing overall safety in hospitals, says Ahmed Gomaa, MD, ScD, MSPH, project officer for OHSN. "We believe you cannot achieve patient safety without worker safety," he says.
Previous needlestick tracking systems provided important information about what types of devices led to injuries and which tasks were most hazardous. But most of those systems have been discontinued.
California ceased its surveillance program in 2005, and the CDC’s NaSH system (National Surveillance System for Healthcare Workers) ended in 2007. EPINet, a University of Virginia project that collected information from South Carolina and hospitals in some Eastern and Pacific Northwest states, ended in 2012. By state law, Massachusetts requires its hospitals to report sharps injuries each year.
CDC planned to include sharps injuries in its National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), but it has focused exclusively on patient safety.
OHSN hopes to fill that gap. The system will collect information on the device used, the task involved, where and when the injury occurred — similar to the previous tracking systems. The denominators will include fulltime employees, bed size, and monthly patient admissions. "There is a big need for a surveillance system [in sharps safety]," Gomaa says.
Users of OHSN can download comparison reports at any time and can submit data through existing occupational health software programs.
Reporting helps boost support for worker safety — both nationally and within hospitals, says Bobbi Jo Hurst, MBA, BSN, COHN-S, manager of employee and student health and safety at Lancaster (PA) General Health. Lancaster is a member of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), a safety recognition program of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and was one of the first hospitals to report data to OHSN.
"All executives want to know how you’re doing and what your benchmarking is," she says. "The more information that your leadership sees, the more support you gain."
OHSN is constantly adding hospitals, so the database is growing.
The data come from hospitals of varying size: 48 small (<200 beds), 38 medium (200-499 beds) and 16 large (>500 beds).
They span the country, with 55 in the Midwest, 33 in the South, 6 in the Northeast and 5 in the West.
As of June 2014, the network reported the following preliminary data:
Injuries from slips, trips and falls (3,401) outnumbered patient handling injuries (3,053). There were 1,577 incidents of workplace violence involving nurses and nursing assistants among the 100 hospitals.
Slips, trips and falls also had the highest incidence rate as measured per 10,000 worker-months (0.52), per 100 licensed bed-months (0.18), and per 1,000 admissions (3.2).
Many slips, trips and falls occur outside of patient care areas. Patient handling was the No. 1 injury in patient care areas.
Patient handling injuries also were the most common OSHA-recordable event.
Most injuries were among employees between 45 and 64 years of age (7,041), followed by 30- to 44-year-olds (6,069) and 18- to 29-year-olds (3,436).