AUSTIN, Texas – (Sept. 7, 2012) – University Medical Center Brackenridge is the first Level I trauma center in the U.S. to earn the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) designation from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Just 14 other American hospitals are VPP-certified and none of them are Level I facilities, with medical personnel capable of handling the most complex trauma cases.
The hospital earned “Merit”-level VPP status after employees and managers developed and implemented safety processes and procedures that already are decreasing accidents and eliminating risks to nurses, physicians and others who work in the hospital.
A special, full-size “VPP” flag was presented by OSHA to UMC Brackenridge safety team leaders and members during a special ceremony. See photos from the event.
In the U.S., injuries such as back strains and needle sticks among health care employees are trending downward, but health care injury rates are not improving as quickly as injury rates in most other occupations. As a result, health care continues to be one of the most unsafe industries in which to work. OSHA will spotlight UMC Brackenridge as a model to other hospitals, doctor offices, nursing homes and other health care workplaces in the region and nationally.
Nationwide, more than 241,000 health care workers became ill or injured in their workplaces, said Darryl Jordan, vice president, Risk Management and chief risk officer, Ascension Seton. The acute care hospital industry rate had a rate of seven incidents for every 100 full-time employees and is one of the highest among all industries.
“Think about the risks inherent in an industry where an employee may need to lift and maneuver, without assistance, a patient who can weigh up to 165 pounds. Add to that a work environment where all kinds of needles and other sharp objects are routinely handled, and where patients can be losing blood or have respiratory issues or other contagious diseases,” Jordan said.
At UMC Brackenridge in 2008, the injury illness rate was 7.5 – slightly higher than today’s national average. But today, after a three-year focus on improving safety, the rate is 5.0 – a 33 percent improvement, Jordan noted.
Designation as a VPP program is OSHA’s official recognition of outstanding efforts by employers and employees working together and achieving exemplary occupational safety and health. Guided by OSHA, management and labor develop and establish cooperative relationships at workplaces and implement a comprehensive safety and health management system. Key components are empowering every employee to speak up at any time should a safety issue arise and ensuring management addresses an issue in a timely manner.
“Merit” status is the second highest of three VPP designations. UMC Brackenridge now will work toward achieving top-level “Star” status by demonstrating and documenting that safety systems now in place are proven successful.