Safety Culture in Healthcare Settings

Doctors in a meeting at hospital

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Introduction

In 2019, more than 18 million workers were employed in U.S. healthcare sector settings with services provided around the clock. This healthcare industry employs a diverse group of professional, technical, and service workers such as: nurses, physicians, dentists, physical therapists, medical technologists, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, home health care aides, environmental services workers, food service workers, and others. Healthcare workers are at risk for exposure to a wide range of work-related safety and health hazards including lifting and repetitive tasks, slippery or uneven walking surfaces, long hours, changing shifts, violence, stress, and exposure to infectious diseases and hazardous chemicals. Exposure to these hazards can lead to many adverse outcomes, including work-life balance issues, injury, illness, lost work time, disability, and death.

Training and educating healthcare workers and employers about work-related health and safety hazards helps to identify workplace hazards. This in turn, facilitates the adoption of safe and healthy workplace practices, and promotes a positive safety culture, whereby workers and employers do not tolerate unsafe and unhealthy work practices. Important concepts and key approaches to a safe healthcare environment should be addressed in educational curricula and repeatedly reinforced and emphasized in settings where healthcare is provided. A robust workplace safety culture is an essential component of life-long professional development and welfare at work.

Page last reviewed: April 28, 2022