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How prevention through design (PtD) drives safety and compliance in healthcare facilities

By Norman Ford / Special to HealthcareFacilities Today
January 11, 2018

What is prevention through design?

Healthcare workers have been fatally injured because teams failed to identify or control hazardous equipment, products or environments. Prevention through Design (PtD) is a national initiative created to promote, highlight and mitigate these occupational safety risks. The goal of PtD is to anticipate and prevent potential facilities hazards posed by work methods, processes or technologies. This broad, yet strategic initiative guides policy and practice within eight industries, including healthcare.  

The goal of PtD is to use the early stages of designing and developing a workplace to eliminate and control risks to workers. It’s a precautionary – rather than reactionary – approach to the design, redesign and retrofit of new and existing work premises, equipment, work processes and the organization of work. By enhancing the work environment through the inclusion of preventative thinking, the design ensures optimal workplace safety. There are many resources available that help facility managers succeed in improving occupational safety.

The guiding standards

In 2011, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) approved the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard Z590.3. “Prevention through Design: Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Risks in Design and Redesign Processes” complemented existing performance objectives to reinforce the goal of protecting the worker. The standard addresses four key stages of occupational risk management, including pre-operational, operational, post incident and post-operational.

Facility administrators also look to organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Fire Protection Association 350 (NFPA 350) and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to set guidelines to help prevent fatalities and injuries, and to create safer facilities. These organizations have adopted the idea that “designing out” occupational hazards and risks is an effective way to protect workers.

These standards guide “life-cycle” assessments and provide a design model that balances environmental and occupational safety with health goals over the lifespan of a facility, process or product. Essentially, if safety is top of mind during the early stages of building development, then architects and contractors can design a workplace that mitigates risk and enhances employee protection in the event of an emergency. PtD can also save organizations money by preventing post-design retrofits and, ultimately, reducing the costs associated with on-the-job fatalities and injuries.

PtD in healthcare facilities

In healthcare, PtD is especially important to ensure not only employee safety but also patient safety. From which chemicals or equipment is used to the location of surgical rooms and bathrooms, PtD focuses on small details to enable a sustainable and safe environment. PtD drives compliance by closely adhering to and underscoring many of the standards and regulations that have already been established to protect building occupants. By adopting PtD, facility managers can avoid bringing hazards in the workplace to begin with and can have a much higher probability of avoiding common workplace fatalities and injuries and set the foundation for both a safe and compliant workplace.  

Norman Ford is the vice president of operations for Compliance Solutions, Skillsoft

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