U.S. healthcare facilities are getting some help in tracking sharps incidents and blood and body fluid exposures among their workers – in the form of a new system developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The free and voluntary system, Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN), uses two modules to collect existing injury data (e.g., date of injury or illness, location of incident, description of illness, days away from work, and other data collected in OSHA logs) among healthcare personnel to (1) help identify job titles at highest risk for injury in their own facility, (2) develop interventions for the safety and health of hospital staff, and (3) objectively measure impact over time.

Accident prevention

In addition to the already existing modules that track incidences of slips, trips, and falls, patient handling injuries, and workplace violence, the new modules to track sharp injuries and blood and body fluid exposures give employers and employees the ability to track and analyze most of the common, high risk, preventable injury and exposure events among healthcare workers.

The secure electronic occupational safety and health system currently hosts facilities located across 20 states, all which provide data to this web-based portal. Members can use OHSN to analyze and report workplace-specific data to illustrate the magnitude of injury and illness events among workers, monitor the trends, and gain access to a library of resources specific to the healthcare sector.

A culture of safety

“An annual survey of OHSN users shows overwhelming support for a system that helps mitigate high-risk aspects of the healthcare industry and guides prevention efforts,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “A commitment to a culture of safety that emphasizes continuous monitoring and improvement benefits not only the worker, but the employer as well.”

The OHSN system allows participants to determine the root cause for each incident, and identify trends to design relevant interventions and measure their impact. The system analyzes the data and presents it visually with easy-to-read charts. With a greater commitment from employers and an even larger sample size of health care facilities using the OHSN system, an increasingly more accurate picture can be drawn, and recommendations, interventions and prevention strategies utilized.

Where to enroll

NIOSH is encouraging healthcare facilities to enroll in the OHSN, which they can do at the enrollment page. Enrollment in the OHSN will help facilities manage, track, and prevent common occupational health injuries among healthcare workers. For more information and background on OHSN, and to start the enrollment process, visit the OHSN topic page.

NIOSH is the Federal Institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/.