179 Healthcare: Introduction to Common Hospital Hazards

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Common Hazard Locations

Emergency Room
Injuries may occur to emergency room department employees from improper training or use of specific equipment.
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Emergency Room

Surgical tools and machinery aid medical procedures and are critical to the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In most hospitals and medical centers, a trained biomedical and engineering team manages the entire medical inventory and is responsible for dealing with medical equipment hazards.

Injuries may occur to emergency room department employees from improper training or use of specific equipment (e.g., defibrillators). Electric shock may also occur as a result of lack of maintenance or misuse of equipment and/or its controls. Oxygen-enriched atmospheres and water may contribute to hazardous conditions.

It is important that an emergency department has a program in place that routinely monitors the status of equipment and proper training of employees to use equipment safely. It is crucial to establish some basic equipment safety and service guidelines.

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1. What can happen if there is a lack of maintenance on equipment in an emergency room?

a. Electric shock
b. Death
c. Paralysis
d. Allergic reaction

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Slips, Trips, and Falls in Emergency Room

Emergency Room
Slips, trips, and falls may be a specific concern for emergency department areas.

Because of the emergency atmosphere, (i.e., high traffic and compact treatment spaces) slips/trips/falls may be a specific concern for emergency department areas.

There is a potential slip and fall hazard if water is spilled on the floor accidentally, electrical cords run across pathways, and/or if emergency equipment or supplies block passageways.

Possible Solutions

2. Continuously wet surfaces in an emergency can cause _____.

a. death
b. growth of mold, fungi, and bacteria
c. broken bones
d. hives

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Intensive Care Units

Intensive Care
Injuries may occur to employees in an intensive care unit from improper training or the use of some equipment.
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Injuries may occur to employees in an intensive care unit (ICU) from improper training or the use of some equipment, such as defibrillators. It is a good idea to have a program that routinely monitors the status of equipment and proper training of employees to use the equipment safely.

ICU's, particularly neonatal ICU's, may be designed without walls between patient spaces. This may allow employees to be unknowingly exposed to aerosolized chemicals and x-ray radiation that escape from neighboring areas.

Work Practice Controls

Here are some possible work practice controls to help prevent ICU workers from potential hazards:

  • All rooms should have adequate ventilation to remove contaminants.
    • If air recirculation is required, then adequate filtering should be installed.
  • Staff in adjoining patient spaces may need to be warned and removed if procedures such as x-rays are occurring.
  • Aerosolized chemicals should be administered in such a fashion as not to expose staff or patients in the area to the hazard.
  • Hands should be washed frequently and thoroughly. Workers should wash immediately after direct contact with any chemical, drug, blood, or other body fluid.
  • No eating, drinking, smoking or application of cosmetics should take place in the ICU.
  • Needles and other sharp objects should be disposed of promptly in impervious containers. Needles should not be clipped or recapped by hand.
  • There should be immediate and proper disposal of biohazardous waste.
  • Mouth pipetting is to be prohibited.
  • Appropriate personal dosimetry devices should be worn when working with radioactive materials.
  • Electrical equipment that appears to be damaged or in poor repair should not be used. Any shocks from electrical equipment should be reported promptly to the maintenance department.
  • Cylinders of compressed gases should be kept secured. They should never be dropped or allowed to strike each other with force.
  • Large pieces of broken glass should be removed with brooms and disposed of in a separate container. Small pieces can be removed with tongs. Glass should never be removed with fingers.
  • Vaporizers of anesthesia machines should be turned off when not in use. Also, proper face masks, sufficiently inflated endotracheal tubes, and prevention of anesthetic spills will decrease the amount of waste anesthetic gases in the operating room.
  • Antineoplastic drug contact requires the use of an isotonic wash to the body or eyes.

3. Injuries may occur to employees in an intensive care unit (ICU) from _____.

a. excessive training
b. lack of supervision
c. improper training
d. excessive amount of monitoring equipment

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Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy
Physical therapists use different types of electrical treatment equipment, such as ultrasound devices, that could be hazardous.
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Physical therapists use different types of electrical treatment equipment, such as the hydrocollator and ultrasound devices, that could be hazardous:

  • If water and electrical energies mix, it may result in a possible shock hazard.
  • If equipment is used improperly, excessive occupational exposure to ultrasound may occur.

It is necessary to review the safety and health program and routinely monitor the condition of equipment and addresses work practices of therapists.

  • Visual inspection of cords; do not use if frayed or damaged.
  • Employee visual inspection of equipment before using.
    • If something doesn't look right, don't use the machine; call for assistance.

Work Practice Controls

  • Proper technique must be used when administering ultrasound and electrical stimulation treatments to avoid excessive exposure to the therapist's hand.
    • Improper technique could result in hand weakness.
    • Physical therapist should use the handle rather than the head of the ultrasound device when administering treatments.

4. Improper technique when administering ultrasound treatments can result in _____.

a. broken bones
b. hand weaknesss
c. allergic reactions
d. loss of eyesight

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