University Medical Center Brackenridge is the first Level I trauma center in the U.S. to earn the highest 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 trauma centers like UMC Brackenridge, which handles the most complex trauma cases in Central Texas.
The hospital earned “Star”-level VPP status after employees and managers developed and implemented safety processes and procedures that decrease accidents and eliminate risks to about 2,000 nurses, physicians and others who work in the hospital. UMC Brackenridge earned the second level of VPP status, “Merit,” in September 2012.
According to OSHA, safer caregivers mean happier patients. Studies have found higher patient satisfaction levels in hospitals where employees are safe and healthy.
While injuries such as back strains and needle sticks among health care employees are trending downward, injury rates are not improving as quickly as 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 in 2012, about 250,000 health care workers became ill or injured in their workplaces and almost 60,000 of them missed work as a result, said Sally Pawsat, Ascension Seton director of safety and emergency management. The acute care hospital industry has an injury rate of seven incidents annually for every 100 full-time employees – 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,” Pawsat said. “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 contagious diseases.”
At UMC Brackenridge in 2008, the injury illness rate was 7.5 injuries per 100 employees – slightly higher than today’s national average. By 2013, after focusing on improving safety over the past four years, the rate is 5.13 – a 32 percent improvement, Pawsat said.
A distinctive, full-size “VPP” flag was presented Wednesday by OSHA to UMC Brackenridge Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Herb Dyer and safety team leaders and members during a special ceremony. Employees gathered for the event then blew bubbles skyward, filling the air above the hospital’s garden.
The flag then was walked to the flag pole on the north side of the hospital and hoisted amidst another bubbly salute.
Click here for photos of the event.
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 issues in a timely manner.